Fears are growing that rising gasoline prices could stifle economic recovery.
Those rising gasoline prices are becoming the subject of hot political debate in a presidential election year. Geopolitics is behind the rising prices, most noticeably due to the increasing tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
But amidst this uncertainty, there are also signs of a transformation, as a mix of new technologies, innovation and public policy are unlocking vast sources of energy that were unthinkable just years before.
Just how this new energy era will take shape will be the focus this week as more than 2,000 participants from more than 50 countries convene in Houston for the 31st annual CERAWeek energy conference.
This year’s conference is called The Quest, for it is about the efforts to deliver the energy supplies needed by a growing world, meet environmental objectives, assure the security of energy in the face of a variety of threats and contribute to economic recovery.
Among the transformative developments taking shape is the rebalancing of global oil supply. New sources of oil in North and South America are redrawing the world oil map and will change the flow of the world petroleum trade.
Innovative technologies are unlocking the United States’ “tight oil” supplies and have already produced North America’s other energy boom — shale gas. The “shale gale” makes possible a hundred years of gas supplies and is currently supporting more than 600,000 U.S. jobs.
A “rebirth of renewables” — notably wind and solar — are making them a growing part of the supply picture. These sources still face challenges of cost and scale, especially with the cutbacks in government funding and in the face of increased competition (at least in North America) from inexpensive shale gas.
A race thought to have been decided a century ago — by the victory of the internal combustion engine over the electric car — has started again. But it is still too early to tell if electric vehicles will become a true mass market product or just a niche vehicle.
The quest to realize the new energy future is just getting started. Much remains uncertain. That is what the world’s preeminent energy leaders will explore at CERAWeek.
Daniel Yergin is the chairman of IHS CERA and author of The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World. He is the chairman of CERAWeek, the world’s pre-eminent energy conference.