As the sun sets on 2011 and we all turn our eyes to 2012, it’s time for journalists and consultants to publish their predictions for the coming year. I was briefly tempted to create such a list — something along the lines of “energy prices will be higher, the planet will be warmer, and many regions will be affected by drought” — until I remembered that I’ve always been bad at predicting.
For example, back in the late 1970s, I was convinced that energy prices would rise steeply during the 1980s. I was wrong.
I’m not the only one with a bad forecasting track record. Most people, “experts” included, are terrible at predicting the future. So instead of presenting my own predictions, I’ve decided to take a look at the accuracy of past predictions made by other authors and experts.
Here are some predictions I’ve gathered, beginning with the most recent.
Predictions made in 2009: Smart meters will lead to 30% energy savings
An article published in Business Week in November 2009 predicted that by the end of 2010, “Smart grids/meters will take the world by storm. Annual global spending on the technology will jump to $33 billion by 2014 vs. $12 billion in 2008. That could increase electricity grids’ efficiency two-fold and reduce consumers’ energy consumption by 30%.” Or not.
Predictions made in 2003: Oil at $20 a barrel
Billionaire Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, predicted in February 2003 that, as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, oil prices would fall from the then-current level of $32 a barrel to only $20 a barrel. Said Murdoch, “The whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else.”
Soon after Murdoch made his prediction, however, oil prices began climbing. The average price of a barrel of oil…