"Space travel is bunk."
--Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal of the UK, 1957
Two weeks after Sir Harold made the above prediction, the Russians launched Sputnik. People in the business of making predictions often make them, hoping that no one will remember their wrong ones. That's the hope of Energy Watch Group, which released some details of an alarming study they've conducted.
More from the Guardian's Ashley Seager:
World oil production has already peaked and will fall by half as soon as 2030, according to a report which also warns that extreme shortages of fossil fuels will lead to wars and social breakdown.Few will remember the famous prediction in the late 1800s of a Philadelphia newspaper which warned of "horse manure piled 4 feet high" in the streets. Or of Time's "New Ice Age" cover in the mid-1970s: one proposed solution in the magazine was to melt the polar ice caps.
The German-based Energy Watch Group will release its study in London today saying that global oil production peaked in 2006 - much earlier than most experts had expected. The report, which predicts that production will now fall by 7% a year, comes after oil prices set new records almost every day last week, on Friday hitting more than $90 (£44) a barrel.
Paul Ehrlich's famously wrong predictions about population, hunger and scarcity of resources also comes to mind when reading this report. Of course, global warming enthusiasts will jump on it as proof that "time is running out"--most likely for more expansion of government and less consumer satisfaction.
Other energy predictions contradict the EWG report. Those predictions are made by the companies and people who are putting their money where their mouths/predictions are: energy companies themselves, who have the most to lose if they are wrong. Yet this EWG "study" will be trumpeted as a means to frighten the ignorant into action--any action--to cure this non-problem. Bits Blog puts it this way:
You know, this business might actually be scary if we hadn’t been hearing exactly the same thing since the 1950’s. But the bottom line is that it’s no more true now, than it was then. Ya see… the one factor that they keep forgetting to add to the mix is that we keep finding new ways to discover the stuff.The Guardian's article goes on to admit: "The results are in contrast to projections from the International Energy Agency, which says there is little reason to worry about oil supplies at the moment."
Predictions are a risky business. The Energy Watch Group's forecast will likely be no more accurate than the following prediction, made three years before Sir Harold's.
"You ain't going nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving a truck."
-- Jim Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, in firing Elvis Presley after a performance, 1954
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