There are currently 98 oil producing countries in the world, of which 64 are thought to have passed their geologically imposed production peak, and of those 60 are in terminal production decline.
While some may argue, I am a deep thinker. Not that my thoughts are in any way deep, just that when I think, I tend to dive down to the deepest parts of the thought process. Lately I have been thinking a great deal about the war in Iraq, trying to make sense of the rather insensible decisions that have been made by Bush and his cohorts. I understand the machinations of politics… fundamentally, all politcal moves are either economic or sectarian. I have considered a vast number of the moves made by Bush over the last 7 years to be influenced by sectarian beliefs. His religion, christianity, drove him in other words. I began to really look at the possible reasons for everything he has done from a view that removed christofacism from the table… and I was struck by an epiphany the likes of which I have never before experienced.
Bush isn’t a blind christian… he is possibly the biggest patriot America has ever seen! I am not kidding. Bear with me while I sort this out…
Say what you will about Bush, but one thing we can all thank Bush for someday is the end of America’s dependence on foreign oil. Seriously. When it all shakes out, he very well may be remembered as the president who curtailed our importation of foreign oil by taking a foreign land by force thereby assuring the longevity of the US as a super power. If that isn’t a patriot, I don’t know what is. You may be saying to yourself, “E, you are crazier than Oprah on a low-cal diet!” But let me break it down.
Among scientists and geologists, there is a term used to describe the point at which we achieve maximum oil production and begin the decline to scarcity… it is called Hubbert’s Peak. Named after a geophysicist Marion K. Hubbert, Hubbert’s Peak is, depending on who you ask, either here or very close.
What happens if the world run’s out of oil in our lifetime? It is the scientific conclusion of the best paid, most widely-respected geologists, physicists, bankers, and investors in the world that civilization would for all intent and purpose, end. These are rational, professional, conservative individuals who are absolutely terrified by a phenomenon known as global “Peak Oil.”
Why are they frightened? Simply put, an oil-based economy like the one that drives this country doesn’t need to run out of oil completely before it begins to collapse. It would take a shortfall of as little as 10-15 percent to destroy an oil-dependent economy and bring about an economic crash that would make the depression of the 20s and 30s seem like a boom.
Don’t believe me? During the 70s OPEC manipulated production to create a series of oil shocks, shortfalls in production as small as 5%, that caused the price of oil to nearly quadruple. For those of you too young to remember, those gas shocks sent the US into a near panic, with mile long lines at gas stations, food shortages, and gouging scandals. In California a few years ago, natural gas had a series of production hiccups that cause a drop of less than 5%, at which point natural gas prices rose by 400%.
Oil is increasingly plentiful on the upslope of the bell curve, increasingly scarce and expensive on the down slope. The peak of the curve coincides with the point at which the endowment of oil has been 50 percent depleted. Once the peak is passed, oil production begins to go down while cost begins to go up. Once the cost goes up, things we take for granted become increasingly expensive. Food for instance.
Among the most important modern marvels of the 20th century was the combustion engine. Aside from personalizing transportation, it also allowed for farmers to yield 10 times the product in the same amount of time. This meant that food was more plentiful than ever before and allowed the global population to soar.
In the United States, it takes the equivalant of 400 gallons of oil to feed each American (most recent data i could find was from 1994… these figures may be higher today). Agricultural energy consumption is broken down as follows:
- 31% for the manufacture of inorganic fertilizer
- 19% for the operation of field machinery
- 16% for transportation
- 13% for irrigation
- 08% for raising livestock (not including livestock feed)
- 05% for crop drying
- 05% for pesticide production
- 08% miscellaneous
Energy costs for packaging, refrigeration, transportation to retail outlets, and household cooking are not considered in these figures.
As fuel becomes more scarce and the price goes up, food production will decline exponentially. As food becomes scarce, various social problems will become increasingly common (crime, civil discord, etc). The food that is produced will cost as much as 10 times as it does now to get onto your table (considering production, harvest, transportation, storage all take up a considerable amount of fuel). Either you have the money to continue living and eating the way you do now… or you don’t. The moment food becomes too expensive to be acquired by the common man will be the flash point for a global panic unlike anything our civilization has ever seen.
At that point (possibly sooner), the US will have one of two choices. Either partner with an oil rich nation or take what it needs by force. Under the current regime, force is the more likely scenario.
And here is where all the things Bush has done over the course of the last seven years (including the Bush administration’s drive to pass draconian police-state style legislation) have been done with an eye toward preserving the American way of life. While many people like to believe that what we are doing RIGHT NOW in Iraq is about democratization, it is really about oil in the end… Iraq represents a foothold in a vast oil producing region, clearly democratizing Iraq would allow the US to continue its way of life when oil becomes increasingly scarce. Without a democracy, one that is beholden to the US, we would be under the boot of petro states (countries whose only source of income is Oil… such as Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Venezuela) for the foreseeable future. And for those few who continue to sing about how this war is not about oil and is solely American’s giving Iraqis a chance at democracy, I ask simply this… if the war in Iraq is about democracy and about fighting terrorism, why then have we not invaded Saudia Arabia (the biggest Oligarchy in the region) and forced democracy on them? The people in Saudia Arabia live under incredible rules that prohibit their freedoms so completely, terrorism is a life choice, not a ideology. If it is about terrorism, why have we not bombed Saudia Arabia back to the stone age? It is because the war in Iraq has nothing to do with either democracy or terrorism… it has to do with assuring access to oil for the foreseeable future.
Once the oil runs out, and most experts (both in the oil industry and out) believe we have less than 30 years, the world will be a much different place. Forget about alternative fuels like hydrogen or nuclear, there is no way for the world to make the transition in time. Solar? Never gonna happen.
So, on that note… rather than worry about the environment, worry more for your way of life. Worry for your ipod, your tv, your dvd player, and your car. Someday, children will wonder what all those things did just as they wonder today when shown an 8-track tape. Worry about how you are going to feed your family in 20 years (or in the case of some of you, how your children will feed theirs).
Perhaps Bush is right and we are all wrong. Perhaps the only thing that really matters is that Bush has lied to us all along, but not because he has some secret pact with the devil.. but he has a secret pact to protect us from the inevitable. We are the devil and the devil is us.