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The World is Awash in Oil, Part IX

July 10, 2013

(Note:  since the beginning of this blog 5 years ago, we have repeated the phrase The World is Awash in Oil over and over again.  This is merely the latest update.)

Following up on yesterday’s post, I want to underline the fact that the quality of life in any society is directly tied to the quality and quantity of energy at its disposal.  The world has 7 billion mouths to feed, soon to be 9 billion, and those needs cannot be met without a sophisticated energy economy.  Fossil fuels – and in particular oil – are critical to that economy because of their versatility – they are highly competitive on all “three Ps” of energy – potency, portability and price.  There is, however, a hostility to fossil fuels – and, again, in particular to oil – that at times transcends logic.

It is this hostility which powers the beliefs in Peak Oil and Irreversible, Catastrophic Climate Change.  That there is climate change is undeniable – we are now seasonally traversing the fabled Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route through the Arctic for the first time in recorded history.  But, it is neither irreversible nor catastrophic.  We have the technological abilities to mitigate and adapt.  Also untrue is the hype that the world has or is about to reach a moment of Peak Oil after which we will experience a steep decline in the availability of petroleum.   Instead, the US (and soon the world, as our technical innovations diffuse across the globe) is experiencing an oil production renaissance – a renaissance which is just the tip of the iceberg.

Right now, we know of three massive unconventional oil formations – the oil shale reserves in the Rocky Mountain states (1.3 trillion barrels), the shale oil Bazhenov Formation in Western Siberia (1.2 trillion barrels) and the Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt in Venezuela (500 billion barrels) which contain a combined 3 trillion barrels of oil.  This is more than 20 times the total amount that the world has pumped since the beginning of the Oil Age in the 19th century.  At least half of that total is technically recoverable.

The world has enough oil to meet its energy needs – to feed its teeming billions and to raise their standards of living – for generations.  All that it requires is the political commitment to create a policy environment wherein such resources can be recovered economically and utilized cleanly and efficiently.

I think the left is hostile because fossil fuels are so intimately tied to capitalism and domination.  This is ironic, because treating oil as an enemy rather than recognizing it as a mere tool or commodity is the very type of fetishism which Marx identified as obscuring true social or economic relationships.  In essence, hatred of oil is a hatred of humanity, because billions of us literally cannot survive without it.

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