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Don't worry, be profitable.

Editor's note: World Watch's Peak Oil Forum (January/February 2006) generated the strongest reaction from readers since we published "A Challenge to Conservationists" in late 2004. As with that article, passions ran high, as you'll see from the sample of letters printed on the following pages. Many correspondents objected strongly to Vaclav Smil's views, so we have grouped them at the end and included his response.

Worldwatch has performed an important service with its Peak Oil Forum, as with its splendid Renewables 2005: Global Status Report. Yet two key meta-observations about peak oil are missing.

First, nobody can know who's right. The reserves data are a mess, many are sketchy or secret, and 94 percent of reserves belong to governments, which have every incentive to lie about what they have.

Second, it doesn't matter who's right, because we should do the same things anyway just to save money, no matter whether oil is scarce or abundant. For example, Winning the Oil Endgame (free at provides an independent, peer-reviewed, detailed, transparent, and uncontested roadmap for eliminating U.S. oil use by the 2040s, led by business for profit. This Pentagon-cosponsored study shows that half of U.S. oil use can be saved by efficient use and the rest substituted by saved natural gas and advanced biofuels, at respective average costs (in 2000 dollars) of $12/barrel and $18/barrel. Thus, reducing U.S. oil use to zero will cost (as of 2025, partway through the transition) $70 billion a year less than buying the officially forecast $26/barrel oil, even if all its externalities were zero. Early stages of implementation are showing much promise.


Despite my respect for experts on both sides of the peak-oil debate, both these reasons suggest that it's not a problem meriting much attention. Let's focus instead on implementing the practical solutions that make sense and make money regardless. If we get off oil earlier than we turned out to need to, the worst that can happen is that we'll make more profit sooner.


Rocky Mountain Institute

Snowmass, Colorado, U.S.A.
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Title Annotation:FROM READERS
Author:Lovins, Amory B.
Publication:World Watch
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:May 1, 2006
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