The real oil problem

With oil prices at record levels, the perennial related problems of "running out of oil" and the reality of the "oil weapon" are in the news again.The real oil problem goes back to the fact that oil discoveries took place in the wrong sequence. In the best of all worlds, the lowest-cost Middle East oil should have been exploited first before high-cost sources were tackled. But of course, the existence of sources only becomes known through exploration—and this has not been done in any systematic way. As a matter of politics, high-cost domestic US oil had to be protected in two ways: through a quota-based, import-control program and through production restrictions on domestic wells by...

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