Du pétrole aux technologies de l’information

Sheikh Yamani, l’ancien ministre saoudien du pétrole et l’un des fondateurs de l’OPEP, a un jour déclaré que l’âge de la pierre n’avait pas pris fin par manque de pierres, et que de même l’âge du pétrole ne prendrait pas fin faute de pétrole. C’est en raison de la supériorité du bronze et du fer que les humains ont cessé d’utiliser la pierre. Mais abandonnerons-nous vraiment le pétrole un jour, en faveur d’autres technologies énergétiques capables d’apporter des bénéfices plus grands ?

La menace de l’épuisement de ressources énergétiques mondiales limitées occupe une place importante dans notre imaginaire collectif depuis les chocs pétroliers des années 1970. Et nos craintes ne s’arrêtent pas aux hydrocarbures. Par exemple, Limits to Growth , un bestseller paru en 1972, prévoyait que le monde manquerait d’or en 1981, d’argent et de mercure en 1985, et de zinc en 1990. On sait aujourd’hui à quoi s’en tenir sur ces pénuries annoncées, et pourtant la plupart des débats reposent encore sur la logique de Limits to Growth .

Nous ne sommes pas du tout à court de ressources naturelles. L’économiste américain Julian Simon aurait lancé en 1980 un défi à un groupe d’écologistes : la pénurie étant synonyme de hausse des prix, pourquoi ne pas investir dans les métaux ? Les écologistes choisirent le chrome, le cuivre, le nickel, l’étain et le tungstène, avec une échéance de dix années. En septembre 1990, tous ces métaux avaient perdu de la valeur : 5 % pour le chrome, 74 % pour l’étain.

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