Stones and Oil

Just a couple of days ago I came across a quote that I thought was...  well, see for yourself:

"We didn't leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones. Likewise, we must leave the oil age before we run out of oil." [Tom Demarco, Whistler, BC; in National Geographic Vol. 214, No 4, October 2008, Letters]

A quick search on dogpile shows that in the past few years this has been a recurring sentiment (at least the first half of it), even being called a cliché already in 2005 on WorldChanging.  In 2006 T.H. Culhane attributes it to former Oil Minister Sheik Yamani.

2007 Thomas P M Barnett, uses it in an opinion piece which is only worthwhile because of the subsequent responses -quote "We didn't leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones, and we won't leave the Oil Age because we've run out of oil. Instead, humanity moves progressively "down" the carbon chain (wood to coal to oil to gas to nukes and hydrogen) for the sheer reason that each step we take brings us higher efficiency and less pollution -- a total win-win."  One can take a guess whether that sequence was actually meant to follow the carbon chain to the first source of the energy that we use when burning fossil fuels, ie. solar energy, or whether it is just an inconsistent, if not vacuous, statement, that unsuccessfully attempts by all means to avoid mentioning sustainable sources of renewable energy. 

The double inversion of the argument from WorldChanging to Barnett to Demarco is compelling.  Apparently, like a sword the argument can cut both ways, and perhaps with Uranium we would be moving into another type of Stone Age.

So, compared with how long it took us to leave the Stone Age, how quickly can we leave behind the Fossil Fuel Age?


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