The end of the age of oil is perhaps a mindset. It's recognizing that... Oil, in a sense, is a very valuable commodity. I remember, when I was in university, at Stanford, back in the early 1970s, having a conversation with a colleague who is a graduate student of the physics department, and we both agreed... And this is before I even decided to go into the industry as a career. And we both agreed then that this stuff was far to valuable to be burning in automobiles the way we do. Just burning it up. Use it once, and it's gone. We were sort of amazed, because crude oil is such an amazing molecule, with so many uses and so much potential.
Now, of course, one of the other things in 1973 or so, the time that some of the first oil shocks in the West with the Arab oil embargo... One of the other things about it then, was the world had 30 years supply of oil left. 1973. So, we thought: if there's only 30 years supply of oil left, then we absolutely shouldn't just be burning it up in cars and things. Well, here we are in 2011 and guess what? The world still has 30 years supply of oil left. And this is... It doesn't mean that we'll go on forever. We're back to the Peak Oil discussion. But it does mean that there's a lot of oil out there. And there's a lot of oil that can be produced with new technology, and it's really technology that drives the new development of new oil fields, and that's created this vast resource.
There's a famous petroleum geologist who actually said: "Oil is first found in the mind of man." And today, we would say: "In the minds of men and women." But the point is, we think of it first. And we think of where it is, and the geology and understand it, and the oil was always there, just nobody imagined it. Deep waters are a great example. In the 1970s, and even the early '80s, nobody imagined that in water depths of greater than 1000 feet there were significant supplies of oil and gas. In fact, most petroleum geologists said: "It's not there." Just like at the turn of the century, from the 19th to the 20th century, and even into the early 20th century, most petroleum geologists said there was no oil in this... little oil in California, there was no oil in Alaska, there was probably little oil in the Middle East. You know, these things... You have to understand geology and how the Earth works.
Now, I'm not saying that hidden somewhere out there in the world there's another big basin that will rival the Middle East in terms of supply. It's just that in the world there's a lot of oil still to be found.
So, going back to this mindset and... The Stone Age didn't end for lack of stones, which, with the first person I know of, that said it was Sheikh Yamani, who was a Saudi oil minister in, I think, the '70s and '80s. And he was really speaking about oil as a commodity, and like most commodities, you never produce the last little bit. And you find... It is a mindset, but it's also technology. And for many reasons, whether it's driven by price, more often, in my mind, it's driven by utility. Not so much price, but utility. I can come back to that. The world moves on. The world moves on because actually there's a better way to do this. And, if I can, my favourite example of this, is salt. If you go back through ages of man, salt was, and lots of people talked about this, a very valuable commodity. Wars were fought over salt. It was a source of power for civilisations and for countries. Many words in today's, in the English language, come from that. Salary, comes from sal, salt. He's worth his salt. These are... Roman legionnaires were paid in salt. This is where the salt comes from, the sense that salt is a very valuable commodity. Why? Because it was used to preserve food. And if you were going to conquer the world, you needed to preserve food, so you could move your armies around and feed them, and conquer the world. This is great. But some time in the early 20th century salt didn't matter anymore, because somebody invented the refrigerator.
And that was curious... Everybody knew how important salt was, but the people that invented refrigeration were not experts in salt. And they weren't out looking around on the ground for what can I find out here somewhere, that I can pound into meat instead of salt, that will preserve it as well or better, since my country doesn't have any salt. That wasn't what happened. People that invented refrigerators, I think, I don't know this for a fact, but I think they actually realized that if they ran a steam engine backward, it actually could be used to cool things. And it sort of all tumbled from there. And, of course, the steam engine, by the way, was invented not for locomotion. The steam engine was invented to pump water out of coal mines, so that coal in England could be produced more efficiently.
So this is how it all goes, very interestingly. So here you can go back a couple of hundred years, and an invention that was originally created to improve coal production... Yeah, it does that, but what else does it do? Well, ultimately it means that salt isn't nearly so important anymore. Because now we have refrigerators.
Now, this is... There are many important points here, about how technology developed. You can't predict what's going to happen. Nobody would have predicted that the guy that invented the steam engine might be actually responsible for improving how we store food. Not just meat, but vegetables and fruits and everything else.