Strangely enough, it turns out that increased prices seem to induce market participants to seek out and invest in new sources of supply. Someone should develop a theory around this.
From a good article in today's New York Times: 2009 is turning out to be a bumper year for new oil discoveries; new oil discoveries always occur, but this year has been unusually fruitful. This quote from the article illustrates the important dynamic intertemporal incentives that price signals provide:
These discoveries, spanning five continents, are the result of hefty investments that began earlier in the decade when oil prices rose, and of new technologies that allow explorers to drill at greater depths and break tougher rocks.
"That's the wonderful thing about price signals in a free market "” it puts people in a better position to take more exploration risk," said James T. Hackett, chairman and chief executive of Anadarko Petroleum.
More than 200 discoveries have been reported so far this year in dozens of countries, including northern Iraq's Kurdish region, Australia, Israel, Iran, Brazil, Norway, Ghana and Russia. They have been made by international giants, like Exxon Mobil, but also by industry minnows, like Tullow Oil.