The revolution of unconventional oils has not only reshaped the policy space surrounding petroleum, but has shifted entire fuel paradigms. Tom Steinbach of Hewlett Foundation, Guenter Hoermandinger of EU Delegation, Drew Kodjak of International Council on Clean Transportation, and Carnegie's Deborah Gordon debate the future of energy and its worldwide social, economic, and political impacts.

  • Paradox of Plenty: The influx of unconventional oil has not only changed the makeup of our oils as Gordon stated earlier, it has also diminished concerns regarding the scarcity of oil, Steinbach noted. The conversation should focus on addressing water, air quality, and public health concerns, he said. By rallying around issues such as the Keystone XL pipeline project, the environmental community can buy time and think of politically viable solutions, Steinbach added. 
     
  • EU Response: The European Union has adopted climate and energy legislation that sets targets for emissions reductions, Hoermandinger said. Europe faces the question of how, rather than whether, it will meet the reductions. Furthermore, the new efficiency standards for cars have not resulted in higher costs per unit for the consumer, Hoermandinger mentioned.
     
  • Thinking Outside the Box: There is no upstream low carbon fuel standard, Kodjak said. Efficiency in transportation could reduce demand by millions of barrels per day, he added. Oil companies should revise their business models and diversify their products, Gordon argued. Water quality and quantity will become pivotal issues, Hewlett added. 
     
  • Leadership Role for US: As paradigm shifts occur in oil types, processing, marketable products, transparency and closing knowledge gaps will be critical, Gordon said. She noted that these transitions provide an opportunity to guide decision making, starting with a blend of market and regulatory policies in the United States.