Dear Sir,

Ray Fleming asks how long the world's oil reserves will last and whether climate change will overtake us before the oil runs out (Behind the Headlines Wednesday).

The last ice age ended 11'000 years ago when the maximum extent of the ice sheet covered the UK as far south as Manchester. The retreat continues today in the Arctic and no amount of carbon footprint reduction will stop it. Climate change has a bad press but it does bring benefits. As well as opening the North-West Passage as an alternative to the Panama canal enormous areas of ice will be transformed into shallow seas suitable for oil exploration.

Although common sense tells you the oil supply must dry up sometime, the same was said about British coal. Economic factors have reduced the need for any underground mining. It will surprise some to know that there is more coal still in the ground than the total removed since the boom of the industrial revolution 250 years ago. One state in Canada (Alberta) has more oil reserves in shale deposits than the whole world's conventional oil fields. Only recently has it become economic to extract and process. Untapped gas hydrates exist in sea floor sediments in gigantic quantities and who knows what technological breakthrough will appear in the next 50 years? All this hinges on the price of oil – a price that is maintained artificially high. Typical Middle East crude oil costs only cents to produce. The rest of the $130+ a barrel is OPEC Government's take and all this is before our own Governments add on their wack.

I suspect that just as you have to go to a museum to see coal now, sometime in the future school children will gaze in wonder through the glass cases of the Victoria & Albert to see the samples of Black Gold.

Mike Lillico, Playa de Palma

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