For over forty years energy expectations have been riddled with internal contradictions, and all too often a failure to recognise complexity, the nature and scale of the challenges to be faced, and resultant uncertainty. Key elements of Shell’s “World of Internal Contradictions” scenario, issued internally in October 1974, still hold good. Some other elements have since intruded, though they should not have been entirely unsuspected. The paper opens with a summary of the October 1974, risks then anticipated: another regional conflict in the Middle East; further serious threats to energy supplies; and another currency crisis and recession. Changes in social attitudes were thought likely to shift the emphasis from working for high achievement to ‘takers and dreamers’ having a more influential role. There were numerous internal contradictions anticipated in the evolution of this long-term scenario that have been apparent over the past forty years and seem likely to continue. Some fundamentals of the exploitation and use of energy resources were as apparent then as they are now. The future, like the past, seems likely to be riddled with internal contradictions and failure to find satisfactory resolution of important challenges for the human race. But the complexities, uncertainties and time horizons involved suggest modelling is a marginal option compared with other approaches.
Shell had won high regard for its assessment of a likely first ‘oilcrisis’ (although the timing was a little out), and so in October 1974,“Scenarios for the 1975 Planning Cycle” was issued internally. Onpages 20–21 of that 100-page book key elements of a “World ofInternal Contradictions” scenario were set out. Although membersof the scenario group had different views on the emphasis to beplaced on key features, the outstanding ones were:
“It is thought another major regional conflict in the Middle East,further serious threats to energy supplies, or another major cur-rency crisis and recession could well precipitate the world intothis path rather than that of the alternative scenario we havecalled a New Belle Epoque."
“In the energy sector the supply problem is perceived as impos-ing a constraint on growth."
“Within most Societies expectations outstrip the achievementpotential as the ‘takers and dreamers have a more influentialrole.”
Keywords: Energy modeling, Shell, Energy futures Scenarios