LONDON, England (CNN) -- I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I don't have a car. As oil prices inch upwards I breathe a sigh of relief; my mortgage might be going up and it's becoming more expensive to eat, but at least I don't have to grimace along with the motoring general public every time the service station attendants mount a ladder to herald another rise in petrol prices.
Average unleaded gas prices in the U.S. have reached a record high of $3.794.
If I had wanted to fill my tank this morning, I could have paid 109.9 pence a liter, according to petrolprices.com. At around $2.15 a liter, that's the cheapest price within two miles of my house, and happens to be one of the lowest prices for unleaded fuel in the country.
109.9 pence a liter equates to five pounds a gallon, or $9.77. While I've been writing, another email has popped into my inbox announcing that average petrol prices in the U.S. have hit $3.794 a gallon, the thirteenth straight daily increase and twelfth straight record high. I'm afraid they won't find too much sympathy this side of the Atlantic.
Of course none of this comes as a surprise to motorists who have had to dig deeper and deeper into their wallets to pay for a precious commodity whose current supply is being overwhelmed by increasing demand, regardless of whether production has peaked. Read more on the peak oil debate
The question is where do we go from here? Far beyond the need to ease the pressure on consumers' wallets, an answer must be found to stop the world gorging on fossil fuels when a renewable, greener, alternative can be found. We hope.
This week, the first of this year's Principal Voices will meet in Doha, Qatar to discuss the "Economics of Energy."
A key question they'll be asking is whether it's possible to reduce the world's carbon footprint while continuing to feed our seemingly insatiable appetite for energy.
Alternative fuels could be the answer but so far none have proven to be a viable substitute for old-fashioned oil. So what is the solution? How do we balance saving the world with fueling its economy? Or do we need to step hard on the economic brakes for the greater good?
Doha might seem like an unusual choice of location for a discussion about cleaner energy. Qatar has become very rich on the proceeds of its oil and gas exports. It is home to the world's largest natural gas field and owns one percent of the world's proven oil reserves. It is also in the process of creating its own hydrocarbon hub -- Qatar Energy City -- a global center for the world's oil and gas producers.
But perhaps there's nowhere more relevant to discuss the future of energy beyond oil than the Middle East, the world's richest source of non-renewable energy.
The Principal Voices panel will include passionate advocates of renewable energy, Icelandic President Olafur Grimsson, as well as Dr Joseph Adelegan, the Founder and the Executive Chairman of the Global Network for Environment and Economic Development Research.
Joining them on the panel will be Hesham Al Emadi, the CEO of Energy City Qatar, and Saad Sherida Al Kaabi, Director of Oil and Gas Ventures at Qatar Petroleum.
It will be interesting to see what conclusions they come to, if any. Is enough research being done to find alternatives or is the oil industry dragging its feet for the sake of profits?
Most of the world's motorists will be keen to hear the answers, especially given the gloomy prognosis provided by investment bank Goldman Sachs this week.
It has raised its forecast for oil prices in the second half of this year to $141 a barrel, up from a clearly inadequate $107, and says any fall in prices is merely an opportunity to bet on further rises.
That can only mean higher fuel costs, and the end of 109.9p petrol for me.
Perhaps John Webber has the right idea. The U.S. motorist has strapped solar panels to the top of his car and no longer needs to visit the petrol station at all. Watch the story ».
It's a thought.
Ask questions of our panelists by filling out the form on www.cnn.com/pv or by clicking the Sound Off button below.
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