Steve Hanke: Oil reserves are not fixed. Proven reserves in 1971: 612 billion barrels. Since then the world has produced 767 billion–and still has 1,028 billion left.

Every president since Richard Nixon has asserted that we are running out of oil. Meaning: We are sitting ducks for those who brandish the oil weapon. To keep the evildoers at bay, the government must adopt policies that ensure our energy independence. Both George W. Bush and his challenger John Kerry worship at this altar. And why not? How many elections have been lost by blaming foreigners for an impending crisis and promising a quick fix? Despite their cynicism about politicians, most people actually believe that mineral resources, including oil, are doomed to disappear. It’s obvious: Start with a given stock of provisions in the cupboard, subtract consumption and eventually the cupboard will be bare. But what is obvious is often wrong. We never run out of minerals. At some point it just costs too much to produce them profitably. In the 19th century the big energy scare was in Europe. Most thought Europe was running out of coal. That doomsday scenario never materialized. Thanks to a plethora of substitutes, the prices that European coal could fetch today are far below its development and extraction costs. Consequently, Europe sits on top of billions of tons of worthless coal.

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