Adaptability to oil supply

The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.

Reminds me of a comment from another time:

Imagine for a moment, then, that we’re discussing an experiment involving microbes in a petri dish. The culture medium in the dish contains 5% of a simple sugar that the microbes can eat, and 95% of a more complex sugar they don’t have the right enzymes to metabolize. We put a drop of fluid containing microbes into the dish, close the lid, and watch. Over the next few days, a colony of microbes spreads through the culture medium, feeding on the simple sugar.

Then a mutation happens, and one microbe starts producing an enzyme that lets it feed on the more abundant complex sugar. Drawing on this new food supply, the mutant microbe and its progeny spread rapidly, outcompeting the original strain, until finally the culture medium is full of mutant microbes. At this point, though, the growth of the microbes is within hailing distance of the limits of the supply of complex sugar. As we watch the microbes through our microscopes, we might begin to wonder whether they can produce a second mutation that will let them continue to thrive. Yet this obvious question misleads, because there is no third sugar in the culture medium for another mutation to exploit.

The point that has to be grasped here is as crucial as it is easy to miss. The mutation gave the microbes access to an existing supply of highly concentrated food; it didn’t create the food out of thin air. If the complex sugar hadn’t existed, the mutation would have yielded no benefit at all. As the complex sugar runs out, further mutations are possible - some microbes might end up living on microbial waste products; others might kill and eat other microbes; still others might develop some form of photosynthesis and start creating sugars from sunlight - but all these possibilities draw on resources much less concentrated and abundant than the complex sugar that made the first mutation succeed so spectacularly. Nothing available to the microbes will allow them to continue to flourish as they did in the heyday of the first mutation. — John Michael Greeg, The innovation fallacy