June 14, 2010 — The Gulf is a graveyard. Fishing is likely finished for the next several years, if not decades. Wildlife has been devastated, and some species may never return. Tourism to some of the most beautiful beaches in the US has plummeted. Shipping lanes are set to be sludge tracks. And hurricane season is just beginning.
BP attacks the Gulf, but the virtual surrender from the Feds hasn’t shamed the oily politicians enough to keep them from whining about more drill permits. An Exxon Valdez gushes into the Gulf every 3-4 days as a whole ocean clogs with crude. Listening to the army of those who want to expand drilling further into the last remaining wildlands is a surreal and sorry sound.
Even those who accept the Peak Oil scenario fret over “environmentalists going bonkers” with their “outrageous demands” to curb this sociopathic need to consume oil.
It shouldn’t be surprising. Petroleum revenues fuel our entire society. We are all complicit. Few of us have the skills to escape the ubiquity of the slick. Worse, our elected representatives, in training for industry jobs, deflect scrutiny of their oily paycheck by shouting: 50,000 jobs on the line if drilling doesn’t continue; the “growth” of our economy will halt; poor ole grandma won’t be able to heat her house in December.
Where was the whining as jobs were vacuumed up across the border over the last several decades? And define economic growth. Growth for who?
Sadly, when it comes to Grandma’s house, there is an element of truth. For Grandma won’t be able to heat her house in winter much longer, whether drilling continues or not. Indeed, the most compelling argument against further drilling is not about jobs or the environment. It’s about Grandma, and it’s strategic.
The world’s finite petroleum resource is about half gone; the easy discoveries have been made, and the easy oil has been extracted and burned. Global oil discoveries peaked in the early 1960s and as demand has grown, we’ve been nursing the same oil fields for decades without replacement. Only the difficult, dangerous, and more expensive to get at oil remains. Whether it’s tar sands or deep ocean, the price of oil is set to rise, going well beyond Grandma’s ability to pay.
It’s called rationing, price rationing to be specific. And the biggest victims will be oil’s biggest users – US. With only the expensive oil left to extract, higher prices are inevitable. Eventually, Grandma and everybody else in the US will be priced out. Meanwhile, $10 a gallon won’t stop the guy on his tiny motorbike in Vietnam who only uses a quarter-gallon a week.
In a recent interview, Dr. Michael McKubre stated the most compelling argument.
“These days with what’s going on in the Gulf of Mexico, people are sensitized to the fact that oil is bad; it’s environmentally bad; burning it is bad; it is worse than bad – it’s crazy. It’s a one-time resource, it’s a chemical feedstock; it should be used to make our fertilizers and plastics and the things that make our society comfortable. We shouldn’t be burning it. Someone said burning oil to heat your home is like burning Rembrandts. It’s crazy.”
The range of materials that can be created from oil is extensive, from life-saving plastic medical devices to writing utensils. Notwithstanding polyester, petroleum products are a one-time gift to humanity. Continuing to run an entire transportation network on petroleum is a “huge mis-allocation of resources” and in no way sustainable.
Future generations will look back at this past century and shake their heads, mystified at our Medieval ways. How could a people so effectively misuse their resources? Shouldn’t we be preparing for this inevitable decline in the avaialablity of oil? Shouldn’t we make contingency plans to mitigate the inevitable higher prices? Shouldn’t we invest in a clean and safe energy source? Shouldn’t we have cold fusion now?