What's the Latest Development?

The idea that oil is a finite and known quantity, and therefore given to ever-rising prices, is a dangerous lie, says Oxford economics professor Dieter Helm. The fear of rising energy prices encourages a political fix: oil and coal subsidies to protect consumers. The result is that exploration of other energy possibilities is discouraged since consumers, thanks to subsidies, no longer stand to benefit from a fall in energy prices. But new technology is essential, such as the shale gas extraction tools which have recently transformed the American energy sector. 

What's the Big Idea?

The true danger, says Helm, is not that there is too little oil beneath the Earth but that there is too much. As climate change rages on, neither the renewable or nuclear energy sectors are capable of supplying the planet's energy needs but as long as fears about peak oil persist, government petroleum and coal subsidies will retard the search for short to mid term energy alternatives. Helm's prescription is to substitute gas for coal, roughly halving green house gas emissions, until more efficient alternatives open up.