Remenber all the talk a couple of years ago about "peak oil"? Remember you how forgot all about it the minute that gasoline dipped back below $ 3 a gallon? Remember how you used to believe in the Easter Bunny and that the 2003-04 Red Sox weren't on steroids? Well. now a top official of the world's most credible energy authority is here to tell you that Santa Claus doesn't exist:

In an interview with The Independent, Dr Birol said that the public and many governments appeared to be oblivious to the fact that the oil on which modern civilisation depends is running out far faster than previously predicted and that global production is likely to peak in about 10 years – at least a decade earlier than most governments had estimated.

But the first detailed assessment of more than 800 oil fields in the world, covering three quarters of global reserves, has found that most of the biggest fields have already peaked and that the rate of decline in oil production is now running at nearly twice the pace as calculated just two years ago. On top of this, there is a problem of chronic under-investment by oil-producing countries, a feature that is set to result in an "oil crunch" within the next five years which will jeopardise any hope of a recovery from the present global economic recession, he said.

In a stark warning to Britain and the other Western powers, Dr Birol said that the market power of the very few oil-producing countries that hold substantial reserves of oil – mostly in the Middle East – would increase rapidly as the oil crisis begins to grip after 2010.

Make fun of "Cash for Clunkers" (sure it could be run a lot better -- just like most new ventures in the free market, like the launch of Kentucky Grilled Chicken) and the need for more serious energy conservation measures now, because you won't be laughing in a few years. Meanwhile, we sit back in a daze because it's true that speculators manipulated the oil markets in 2008, creating an artificial price spike. There's an old saying that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that someone's not out to get you; just because speculators made a crooked buck or two on oil last year doesn't mean that the world isn't running out of oil faster than it thinks.

Programming note: Blogging is going to be very truncated for a lot of August, and non-existent for the middle of the month. More on that later.