House on the Sand

Jeremy Leggett, a former oil man, wrote an article in ‘The Independent’ (20/1/06) entitled, ‘What they don’t want you to know about the coming oil crisis.’ He wrote:
‘A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of an acute, civilisation-changing energy crisis. … We have allowed oil to become vital to virtually everything we do. Ninety per cent of all our transportation, whether by land, air or sea, is fuelled by oil. Ninety-five per cent of all goods in shops involve the use of oil. Ninety-five per cent of all our food products require oil use.’

The world consumes more than 80 million barrels of oil a day, 29 billion barrels a year. This figure is rising fast, as it has done for decades. The US government expects that global demand will grow to around 120 million barrels a day, 43 billion barrels a year, by 2025. However there is no way that the oil industry can produce this amount of oil. Leggett says, ‘The most basic of the foundations of our assumptions of future economic well being is rotten. Our society is in a state of collective denial that has no precedent in history, in terms of its scale and implications.’

The modern industrial world has been built on the supply of energy keeping the electricity supply to our homes and work places running and fuelling our transport system which ensures that goods and people can move from place to place around the world. Without the energy sources – coal, oil, gas and nuclear power – the whole system crumbles.

In America that possibility is beginning to be considered by those who see the phenomenon known as ‘Peak Oil’ as the next big threat to the western way of life. Peak Oil is the point at which oil production reaches a plateau before it declines while demand for oil consumption continues to rise. Once worldwide demand for oil outpaces worldwide production (of oil by a significant margin the price of oil will sky-rocket, oil-dependent economies will crumble, and resource wars will explode.

Matthew Savinar has written an article on this subject on the internet site  . He writes, ‘Civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon. This is not the wacky proclamation of a doomsday cult, apocalypse bible prophecy sect, or conspiracy theory society. Rather, it is the scientific conclusion  russia ukraine news of the best paid, most widely-respected geologists, physicists, and investment bankers in the world. These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by a phenomenon known as global ‘Peak Oil’.’

When will this happen? According to Savinar, ‘Some geologists expect 2005 to be the last year of the cheap-oil bonanza, while many estimates coming out of the oil industry indicate ‘a seemingly unbridgeable supply-demand gap opening up after 2007,’ which will lead to major fuel shortages and increasingly severe blackouts beginning around 2008-2012.’ Richard Heinberg, in his article ‘Smoking Gun: The CIA’s Interest in Peak Oil’ says ‘A growing consensus of petroleum geologists places this event in the mid-range period of 2006 to 2015.’

Savinar dismisses alternatives to oil as sources of power for the current world system as fantasy. Green alternatives like solar, wind and wave power produce only a tiny fraction of the power now available through oil. Hydrogen as an alternative to oil does not work either due to the huge costs of producing it and the vast problems of storing it. He says there is no time to develop the huge infrastructure needed to switch from an oil based industrial system to an alternative one. Nor is there the political will or the financial capability.

Savinar sees an inevitable collapse of the US economy coming which will drag down the rest of the world. ‘As the driver of the world’s economy, the demise of the US will take down other industrialized countries. The financial dislocations wrought by the coming oil shocks could set the stage for a series of destabilizing resource wars and ‘currency insurgencies’, in much the same way Germany’s financial meltdown during the Weimar Republic of the 1920s set the stage for the rise of Third Reich in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s.’

Added to all this is the fact that the present suppliers of most of the world’s oil are anything but reliable. 70% of global proven reserves of oil are to be found in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest reserves with 264.2 billion barrels of proven oil reserves (25% of the world total). Oil from this area is the easiest to extract and export. Recent finds of oil in the Caspian Sea area and in Central Asia are not as great as was originally hoped and these areas are landlocked so getting the oil out involves building pipelines through such unstable regions as Afghanistan to the south or the Caucasus region to the west. The vulnerability of pipelines to terrorism has been shown by the frequent attacks mounted by insurgents in Iraq.

 

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