October 13th, 2011


Author, The New Map: Energy, Climate & Clash of Nations


Bullish on technology’s ability to tap previously unreachable oil and gas, energy analyst Daniel Yergin tells this Climate One audience to expect the age of fossil fuels to continue well into this century. Yergin is author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the oil age The Prize. A pivotal year for Yergin is 2004 when, he says, the world woke up to the surge in energy demand in emerging markets, notably China.

After Yergin’s opening remarks, Climate One’s Greg Dalton reads a 2010 statement from International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol expressing concern over rising global oil demand and urging a transition from oil. Yes, the statement was reasonable, Yergin says, we will run out of oil someday. But “we’ve run out of oil – and I don’t say this facetiously – five times.” Referring to the oil shocks of the 1970s, Yergin says, “There are people in this room who know very well that we were going to fall off the oil mountain – and production is now up 30 percent. We haven’t used up half the world’s oil; we’ve maybe used up 20 percent of the world’s oil.”

Keeping up with demand isn’t just about making new discoveries, Yergin says. Also important are extensions and additions to existing oil fields, prolonging the life of oil plays thought to be exhausted. “It’s technology,” he says. “There’s a tendency to think that technology stagnates, that where you are is where you are going to be. But, in fact, the industry is basically run by scientists and engineers who are trying to push the technology along.”

During the audience Q&A, Yergin is asked if he agrees fossil fuel subsidies needed to be reduced to level the playing field for renewables entering the market. “The subsidies question is very complex, and it really depends upon definition,” he says. Jobs are being created in the renewable industry, he says, “but I think the thing we’ll probably see in the next month or so is the fact that in the last three or four years – and this seems counterintuitive – a lot more jobs have actually been created in the conventional energy industry than in the green industry. That doesn’t mean that’s going to be the case five years or 10 years from now when those industries are much more mature.”



- Justin Gerdes
October 11, 2011
Photos by Ed Ritger
The Commonwealth Club of California