Thursday, March 31, 2005

Petroleum: Upon This RockOil

Recently I have been running into the term "Peak Oil" a lot. It is usually spelled with capital letters, and so I thought for a brief moment maybe it was some oil company owned by the Peak family or named "peak" instead of "acme," or something like that. I looked it up with Google® and quickly found this interesting explanation in Wikipedia, which you should read and bookmark.

Of course, the most recent American interest in world petroleum assets is due to the recent sharp rise in gasoline prices at the pump. Americans are spoiled rotten with low gasoline prices and still have the lowest average price in the world. The point is, though, that we have experienced a couple of "gas crises" back about a generation ago and threats of crises since. So we are skittish about oil, and partly because we know that our 5% of the world's human population consumes 25% of the world's energy, all of which is very heavily resting on the non-limitless natural resource of petroleum. So, maybe it is actually outright paranoia we are experiencing.

Call it paranoia. Skittish is going to sound like a major understatement according to the latest estimates of the "peak oil" year. It has been predicted before and did not happen, but how many times can we tempt fate, we are all asking ourselves? And, more important, what will be the consequences of being in a post-peak economic environment?

Since we do not know what Dick Cheney and his merry band discussed in their energy summit in early 2001, and since our President is currently hell-bent and monomaniacally encumbered with privatizing Social Security to please his friends and contributors on Wall Street, we do not have a national energy policy to deal with—and here it comes—the "peak oil" year that is due NEXT YEAR already!

Next year!!!

I imagine that the Bush Administration folks believe that the American national energy companies will do their level best to make sure that we have enough gasoline to survive, to fill the remaining SUVs, manufacture fertilizer for our major crops, and to make plastics for our remaining manufacturing industries, not to mention pharmaceuticals and national mobility infrastructures like AmTrak, airlines, subways, etc.

I imagine they think the energy companies will have to take really big risks wildcatting in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and off-shore in the Gulf of Mexico and along the scenic California coastline.

I imagine they believe the energy companies should be able to recoup these enormous risk costs quickly enough to keep stockholders (including Social Security personal accountholders) happy and secure.

I imagine that Cheney and his task force foresaw a global dog-eat-dog competition for oil, especially with China, and foresaw that Russia would be a major provider. This is why, no doubt, we have recently decided to put our bets on India and have annoyed Russia's President Putin no end by messing with politics in The Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and doubtless elsewhere in the former Soviet Union as well. Perhaps Cheney has a secret plan to capture the lion's share of Russian petroleum ... somehow.

What does actually happen in the next few years will be something between a cataclysmic catastrophe, that is ...

  • a global depression, the failure of governments right, left, and center,
  • a ruinous inflation, destroying savings and financial institutions everywhere,
  • famine,
  • pestilence, and
  • (what the hell)—the Apocalypse
versus something very evolutionary that we will notice between television shows and talk about with the kids at supper or over their homework.

Given these boundaries for the post-peak period, what would your estimates be of the preparedness of your government? Is there anything going on now that would give you a sense of ... um ... peace and security about any of this?

I think not. The Bush foreign policy is radical unilateralism, which, if predicated on peak oil year 2006, means that they expect the worst from everyone and intend to let it be known that "it's every country for itself," and, b.t.w., "the devil takes the hindmost." A Liberal government, on the other hand, would be fully vested in various collective security and collective responsibility associations and would be seeking every possible way to make sure that every country gets what it needs, if not exactly every drop of oil it "wants."

I also think not because domestically Bush and his band of plutocrats have studiously engaged themselves in a rapid and radical scheme of corporate welfare. They clearly see corporations and corporate leaders as the only safe way through the coming chaos. It has not occurred to them that the corporate profit motive is a weak hand, indeed, guiding the affairs of humankind and will be inadequate to the wrenching distortions that will overtake one society after another. I also doubt they see corporate behavior as contributing to the chaos rather than calming it.

Finally, I have no sense of peace or security about my government and its ability to deal with peak oil because my government has chosen the methods of internal propaganda and deceit, of inciting fear, of squelching essential freedoms of expression. What can they be up to? It is, given peak oil next year, their way of girding up for the riots and chaos that will surely ensue. Do they not know that their own policies give rise to emotional responses rather than cool reason? Do they not understand that once unleashed, the forces they hope to harness for their own personal profit and for the "good of America" will utterly destroy them, our national economy, ... and probably most of us?

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