Note to the Obama administration: “Forcibly cutting back on fossil fuel use before substitutes are widely available could threaten continued economic development.” That’s not the oil industry talking up its game, but rather the president’s own National Intelligence Council, which describes itself as “the intelligence community’s center for mid-term and long-term strategic thinking.” The Council’s non-classified report, Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, looks at how the US international position will change over the next two decades, as it enters a multi-polar world. In large part, this future world will be shaped by the exigencies of resource allocation, and especially by the geo-politics of petroleum supply and demand. And that’s exactly the catch. Because the first thing the council notes in the report’s section on energy and other resources is that the laws of supply and demand that have tended to ensure affordable access to oil often aren’t heeded by state-run companies in the global energy market. They have other fish to fry. “National oil companies have strong economic and political incentives to limit investment in order to prolong the production horizon. Keeping oil in the ground provides resources for future generations in oil states that have limited their economic options,” says the report. By the year 2025, six countries in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, the UAE, Iraq, and Russia – will account for 39 percent of total world oil production. Siding with Boone Pickens, the council says dwindling numbers of oil producers and the search for cleaner fuels means natural gas will be highly favored as an alternative, with consumption projected to grow 60% by 2025. Three countries – Russia, Iran, and Qatar – hold more than 57% of the world’s natural gas reserves. North America, however, will produce 18% of the world’s natural gas supplies by 2025. Use of coal, the council points out, may actually grow even faster – though it’s a very dirty energy source – than natural gas. The US, China, India, and Russia possess the four largest recoverable coal reserves, representing 67% of known global reserves. Finally, use of nuclear power will grow, but because of political and infrastructure concerns, the council doesn’t see any serious ramp-up in capabilities for at least two decades. Ultimately, the reason for continuing reliance on fossil fuels, the council says, is because “new energy technologies probably will not be commercially viable by 2025.” Biofuels are too expensive, clean coal is in its infancy. Hydrogen is both. Even if an alternative energy source were abundantly available, the infrastructure needed to produce, transport, refine, market, and retail would take many years to put in place. The only possibility for a “relatively quick and inexpensive transition… comes from better renewable generation sources (photovoltaic and wind) and improvements in battery technology,” the report says. So what does this all mean in terms of using energy price to determine winners and losers in the great game? “Even with the overall secular rise in energy costs,” the report predicts, “prices well below $100 a barrel are periodically likely with the expected increased volatility and need not come about as a result of technological breakthroughs and rapid commercialization of a substitute fuel.”