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Just as world leaders were assembling in Davos to lament the inexorable decline of natural resources, the world received a new jolt as Australia announced the discovery of a huge new deposit of shale oil in the Arckaringa Basin of the Outback. Lincoln Energy, which owns the Coober Peda holdings, is trying to tone down estimates that the reserves may be worth $20 trillion. It's getting harder and harder to talk about Peak Oil. It may be five years before the first barrel is brought to the surface, but it looks like the Land Down Under could eventually be joining the Indeoendence Club as well.

Already America's success in developing shale gas and tight oil are the main topic in Davos. Europe seems jittery about America's success and realizes it will put pressure on countries to develop their own resources - which means confronting well-funded environmental groups like Greenpeace. Aristocratic opposition to industrial development is even stronger in Europe than the US. In its 20-year look-ahead, BP does not expect much to happen in Europe in the way of shale development, even though the reserves and the technology are there.

China, however, is barging ahead with it's shale gas, even though it may not yet have the infrastructure. Sixteen Chinese companies have bid on 19 gas tracts and they are expected to spend $2 billion in exploration. Knowing the Chinese, they'll be coming up with their own inventions soon. The government hopes the companies will be producing 230 billion cubic feet by 2015.

Of course all this is just going to solidify the place of fossil fuels and aggravate the problem of global warming. So is the Obama Administration going to be able to do anything about it? The President promised action again in his Second Inaugural, but many are skeptical. Environmentalists are urging him to bypass Congress altogether and rely on executive actions. Darren Samuelson, writing in Politico, says the President may have to rely on small, incremental initiatives.

Finally, renewable energy is making progress as the San Francisco 49ers announced they will install solar panels at their new stadium in suburban Santa Clara. That must make them immediate favorites to win the Super Bowl. Volkswagen has opened a huge new solar complex at it's manufacturing plant in Tennessee. In fact renewable investment has become so fashionable that it has even attracted the Mafia. Authorities say that wind and solar facilities in Sicily are being used as money-laundering operations by a crime boss known as "Lord of the Wind." Al Gore, meet Tony Soprano.

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