As a futurist I speak and write about trends and the future. I am often asked questions about the future of one thing or another. In most cases I speak to general trends, not specific outcomes. In some areas I can be somewhat specific as I have taken the time to analyze and then cross reference what I have learned with the trends and forces I see. One of those areas is the price of oil. In early 2007, when the price of oil was $53 a barrel I was invited on a business program to predict what I thought the price of oil might be by the end of the year. At that time I said that I thought that oil would exceed $80 a barrel and could well approach $100, though I didn’t think it would cross that barrier in 2007. The reporter, who had never spoken with a futurist, calling me a ‘so-called futurist’ was trying to contain her sputtering disbelief. The opposite side was some ‘oil industry analyst’ who spoke about a price fluctuation between $50-70 for the remainder of the year. About eight months ago, I wrote that I thought that the near term trading range for the price of oil for the next couple of years would be $80-125. At the time I stated that while there was little on the horizon to create a downward pressure below $80, there was much on the horizon that could cause an upward pressure to $125 and that the long term trend would be ever upward and that downward pressure would provide only temporary dips.

The point of all this is not to pat myself on the back but rather to comment on how incredibly annoying the constant drum beat of “oil sets a new record high price today” stories in the media are to me.  To me I have been living the reality of $100+ price of oil for a couple of years as an expected certainty.  It is a feeling of déjà vu every night. Yup, that’s right the price of oil went up again today, and some sports teams won and some lost and some politician made a promise we all doubt.  Yup, so what else is new?  When one lives with a certainty about something happening in the future and it does happen, it feels like déjà vu, there is no other way to describe it.

James Schlesinger, the first Energy Secretary, when discussing America’s approach to energy, famously said: “We have only two modes – complacency and panic.”  Schlesinger said that some 30 years ago.  So now, after two decades of relative head in the sand complacency; living in McMansions and driving Hummers and pick-up trucks we are subjected to panic news reports practically every night.  I hope the panic subsides and gets channeled into changing the energy equation.  The good news is that sketchy reports show that gasoline consumption at the pump in America is down this year from last year and car dealerships can’t sell SUVs unless they practically give them away.

The other reason I hope it subsides is that I now think that the trading price range for oil will be between an improbable low of $95 and a not surprising $135 for the foreseeable future.  There are a number of events that could happen which would, for periods of time, drive up the price beyond $135.  This will be the oil reality for the next few years.