The thorium revival

By Razib Khan | January 28, 2010 3:37 am

Mike the Mad Biologist points me to an interesting article in Wired, Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke. Of course Wired is a booster of many things which never take off, but in general I think it’s probably safe to bet on nuclear power becoming more prominent in the near-to-medium-future. I recently have been reading a bit about oil, stuff that’s not written by Daniel Yergen, and was fascinated by this chart of long term crude prices:
The inflation adjusted values are of interest. But look at the lack of volatility before 1974! My whole life has been characterized by volatility of crude oil prices, so I simply assumed that that was the nature of the beast….

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Economics, Technology
  • llewelly

    US oil production peaked in 1970. Volatility began shortly thereafter. Perhaps these two things are connected.
    Perhaps more importantly, world-wide per-capita oil production peaked sometime in the 1970s.

  • Moopheus

    If you go back before WWII you’d see more volatility in the “real” inflation-adjusted price. The global situation immediately after WWII gave western oil companies a lot of power to control prices in the Middle East. OPEC was formed to allow producer nations to have a unified bargaining position, and the big spike in 1973 was in part a political response to the US support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. OPEC was also concerned about the weakening of the dollar as the Bretton-Woods regime collapsed. This, of course, is the very oversimplified short version of the story.

  • Charles Iliya Krempeaux

    Typically when I want to see the price of something over time with the effects of inflation removed, I compare it to the price of gold. (It’s not perfect, but seems pretty good towards that goal.)
    I did a quick Google search but didn’t find any graphs of Oil prices in terms of ounces of Gold (for the relevant dates). Maybe I should have tried harder :-) But I did find this, that I think can still be used…
    If you look at the graphs they have, oil doesn’t deviate too much from the gold price around 1974.
    Perhaps what you are seeing in your graph around 1974 is due to Nixon getting rid of the direct convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold. From what my father has told me, around that time no one wanted the U.S. dollar, and you were seeing a flight from it (to other currencies).
    One other thing, there is also this PDF that does actually show Oil in terms of Gold, but it is only from 2001 to 2008…
    It shows the oil price in terms of gold as basically a “flat line”. But given the short time span (of 2001 to 2008) I don’t want to make any claims based on it, about long term trends.

  • Charles Iliya Krempeaux

    Actually… thinking about it a bit more (in addition to my previous comment). There was an oil “crisis” around that time.

  • Gumby’s Friend

    I think the stability of oil prices before 1974 was due to the Railroad Commission of Texas.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


See More


RSS Razib’s Pinboard

Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar