From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
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Montana Geological Society (Rocky Mountain Section of AAPG) and Billings Section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, Billings, Montana, January 18, 2006

The Future of Global Energy: Resources, Technology, and Talent

Scott W. Tinker


For well over a century there has been a predictable global consumption transition away from coal, to oil, to natural gas and other energy fuels. Within these trends lie several interesting clues to help decipher the energy demand and supply picture. Coal production is on the rise, although its end-use consumption will be in liquefied and gasified forms. Conventional oil production will soon be declining, but unconventional oil production—shale oil, heavy oil, tar sands, enhanced oil recovery (EOR) and coal liquefaction—is variably economic at today's prices, allowing for mitigation of the looming economic disaster of “peak oil.” Natural gas reserves are significant, but they require global shipping lanes to open so that natural gas will behave as a global commodity. Unconventional natural gas will be found in many places not associated with oil—coalbed methane, shale gas, tight gas, hydrates, coal gasification—which down the road will serve to detach natural gas price from oil price. Renewable resources have a significant upside, but they must be examined at the scale of supply required by growing demand. And through it all, energy demand will most likely increase as the world industrializes and population grows, dampened, we hope, by conservation and efficiency measures that are critical to begin to curb global demand for energy. The U.S. role in the global energy framework will be examined from the perspective of three critical energy assets: resources, technology, and talent.