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Gas goes up; thinking cap goes on

The squeeze that rising gasoline prices put on family budgets is a topic of conversation at filling stations everywhere, but the possible end of cheap oil is the real elephant at the pump.

A whole scary genre of literature is beginning to point the way to a time when world oil production will peak and then start a gradual slide -- even as global demand for the black gold expands. The book and magazine titles make clear where the authors think we're headed: "The Party's Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies"; "The End of Cheap Oil"; "Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict"; "Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage"; "The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World."

Although many scientists and politicians argue the world has enough oil to last another century or more without problems, companies haven't been finding new oil as fast as they've been selling it in recent years. It's a question of when, not if, oil production peaks.

Some predict that will happen in the next 15 years. One author, Kenneth S. Deffeyes, forecasts -- more as an attention-getting device than a literal prediction -- that the peak will occur this year on Thanksgiving Day.

"Nobody will ring the bell and then the oil will be gone," says Bruce Ball, senior vice president of MKG Financial Group, a Portland investment management firm. But production will decrease as the globe's supply of oil taps out over decades, sending prices into ever higher orbit. A gallon of regular currently costs an average of $2.48 in Oregon, up from $1.98 a year ago, although that spike has more to do with short-term factors than the peak-oil theory. ....

For complete text, see original article.

Editorial Notes: The Portland Oregonian is the major newspaper in Oregon. -BA

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