Del petróleo a la información

El Sheik Yamani, ex Ministro de Energía de Arabia Saudita y arquitecto fundador de la OPEP, dijo alguna vez, “la edad de piedra llegó a su fin no por falta de piedras, y la edad del petróleo va terminar pero no por falta de petróleo”. Los humanos dejaron de usar la piedra porque el bronce y el hierro eran materiales superiores. ¿Pero realmente dejaremos de usar el petróleo cuando otras tecnologías de la energía nos pueden ofrecer ventajas superiores similares?

La amenaza de que se agoten los escasos recursos energéticos del mundo se ha mantenido firmemente en el pensamiento popular desde las crisis petroleras de los años 1970. Nuestro miedo no se limita tampoco al petróleo. Por ejemplo, el bestseller clásico Los límites del crecimiento de 1972 predijo que el mundo se quedaría sin oro en 1981, sin plata y sin mercurio en 1985 y sin zinc en 1990. Hoy tenemos el beneficio de la retrospectiva pero aun ahora muchas de las discusiones sobre el tema se basan en la lógica de Los límites del crecimiento.

Además, la cuestión no es simplemente que no se nos han agotado los recursos naturales. El economista estadounidense Julian Simon supuestamente lanzó un reto en 1980 a un grupo de ambientalistas diciéndoles que si la escasez se fuera a medir en términos de precios mayores, deberían invertir en acciones de cualquier metal en bruto. Los ambientalistas invirtieron en cromo, cobre, níquel, estaño y tungsteno y eligieron un período de diez años. Para septiembre de 1990, cada uno de los metales había bajado de precio: el cromo en un 5%, el estaño en un enorme 74%.

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