The thorium revival

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....

More like this

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.

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.

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.