Ahmed Zaki Yamani? Don Huberts? Nader H. Sultan? Andrew Hoskinson? Jeroen van der Veer? Thomas Friedman? William McDonough?
Dear Quote Investigator: A recent presentation about advances in renewable energy emphasized the dramatic cost reductions occurring in solar and wind power. The speaker argued that reliance on fossil fuels would decrease substantially in the future. The following cogent remark exemplified the thesis:
The Stone Age didn’t end for lack of stone, and the oil age will end long before the world runs out of oil.
These words have been credited to Ahmed Zaki Yamani who was the Minister of Oil for Saudi Arabia for more than twenty years. Would you please explore the provenance of this expression?
Quote Investigator: This statement is difficult to trace because it can be phrased in many ways. The earliest close match located by QI appeared in July 1999 in the London periodical “The Economist” within an article about fuel cell technology. Don Huberts who worked for the oil company Royal Dutch/Shell as the head of a division called Shell Hydrogen delivered the line. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1
“The stone age did not end because the world ran out of stones, and the oil age will not end because we run out of oil.” Thus Don Huberts, who is convinced that fuel cells, which generate clean energy from hydrogen, will soon begin replacing power stations and cars that mostly burn coal, oil or natural gas.
Yamani employed the saying the following year in June 2000 (see further below). The influential “New York Times” columnist Thomas L. Friedman has stated that Yamani used the expression in the 1970s, but QI has not yet found published evidence to support that assertion.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.