John Hofmeister is the former president of Shell Oil. He says no matter what we do, Americans will still need lots of oil. Why? Building materials, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, plastics are all made from petroleum.
"That's not gonna change. It's not gonna change in five years . it's not gonna change in fifty years. Because there isn't enough new technology already under development to displace everything we've already become dependent upon in the last 100 years."
Hofmeister isn't against finding other sources of energy. He just believes its unrealistic to think the U.S. will be able to do without oil anytime soon.
"It is not just cars that depend upon oil and drivers who depend upon gasoline. It really is an entire industry of transportation whether its trucking, whether its airlines or military who defend our nation. Just to maintain the status quo demands 20-plus million barrels a day."
The panel agreed the recent drop in gas prices was in part due to American's using less of it. But they say India and China are growing so much that their demands for oil will keep prices up in the future.
So according to these energy scholars and businessmen, right now there's no new drilling taking place.Î¾ And yet there's nothing out there that can take the place of oil anytime soon either, and that might lead one to ask the question: what happens now?
"I hazard to suggest that sustained high prices may be ultimately what's required. And I wish that were not the case, because a high economic price comes with that."
Clay Sell used to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy. He and others panel members say America is going to have to pay up: more money to drill, more money for alternative fuel sources, or more money at the pump.
Bill Stamps. KUHF Houston Public Radio News.