The Future of Oil
A New Way of Life
"You'll have to drive a car." When you leave New York City, or perhaps other cosmopolitan areas with tons of people who use public transportation, you do not need a soothsayer to find out. That means haggling at a dealership followed by regular visits to gas stations. It also means dependency upon fossil fuels with a modicum of ethanol, a feel-good additive. As a writer, accustomed to accepting a literary premiss, mine or someone else's, if only to give an idea a whirl, I can easily envision a working, thriving city, village, or rural hamlet foregoing the use of refined oil. Or, there could be a limited supply earmarked for restricted vehicles. The entirety would not be a strange warphole leading back into the past. No, not at all. If anything, it would be a more advanced and civilized leap forward into the future.
The lack of necessity for excessive car travel and transportation of both people and cargo is something to contemplate as the atmosphere here at home appears to fall in sync with the warrior mentality that holds sway in other, more dangerous countries. Most of them have ties to oil thicker than blood. There is also the fact that cars need not run on gasoline. Or, if they do, can get much better mileage. Thinning air traffic would also aid home security and lessen the current, routine discomforts of so fuel consuming an option. Next, it is a simple if arduous task to rebuild America so that the things we love to purchase and bring home are kept within safer, shorter distances. Further, if war ramps up and so much fuss over ground troops evaporates, the domestic population would be prepared for rationing. If rationing helps win the next war, it would be well worth it. To find alternatives that would make rationing inessential would be even more worth it.
Burkburnett, Texas Oil Boom
The Early 1900s
The story is told in Oil Boom how Captain Burk Burnett established a ranch and worked out a lease with Quanah Parker, Comanche Chief, to allow his cattle to graze. This was in 1900. He had long since moved on before the boom in the town named after him, Burkburnett, hosted a gusher that gave birth to sixty companies. These stories and others, more or less true, if embellished, made oil the foundation of many, many fortunes. The history of oil companies is another matter -- well documented in The Prize (1992), a lengthy but informative documentary. For this hub, it suffices to say that the oil based hysteria, however justified, only served to facilitate an ultra-mobile society. It is even more mobile today with a mistifying assortment of wheels below and piloted planes above. In the unstoppable madness it should not be forgotten that things do not have to be like this. People can live, quite wholesomely, within defined areas, without great expenditure on fossil-fueled, "perpetual motion". Moreover, they do not have to "get away" as often as they are accustomed to. This is hardly a profound remark since 1900, let's say, to now, 2015/6, encompasses a mere one hundred and fifteen years. No big deal.
The book that was the basis for a great black and white movie is also a reminder that we are again in the midst of another oil boom. People do not like it. Many find it sickening. In some parts, laws against it carry severe penalties. The artsy, photogenic derricks are gone and in order to drudge up oil, great risks are taken, plunging thousands of feet downward, calling into question the unknowable, long-term impact on national health. Once again, there is no stopping it. Shale oil is so remunerative that the best solution is to drive the industry into such a frenzy that it uses up its enviable line of products. A modicum of research reveals that the anticipated result is not going to happen anytime soon. When oil finally goes bust for the last time and truly comes up empty, the real work begins. As long as there is oil, available and affordable, there will be very little progress in renewable energies, despite the dissemination of lovely, heart-warming ideas and the infinite preaching of infinite progress. Oil is bad, grimy, and filthy, if ever-so useful, and makes damn good money. The worst drawback is that it revs up big-time animosity. Odds are that because of its very existence the human race might not make it through the 21st century.
17 Billion Barrels at Risk near Kuwait
Islamic Civilization vs. Oil and Profits
I could have been cuter and matched prophets against profits. Nonetheless, thus far, the inordinate value placed on the Middle East and Middle Eastern countries depends first and foremost upon oil-related matters. Relatively few, in the world at large, hold Post-Modern Islam, one of two dominant Semitic religions in the Levant, in as high esteem as it might otherwise be entitled to. With so much bickering, what are we to think? The kinds of Christianity practiced, among Middle Eastern Christians, are interesting. But under siege, they are not qualified, it seems, to set off alarms in the greater Christian community. I am only making an observation. Christians here let Christians there perish without sufficient protest. Very possibly, the victims are being blamed, seen as practitioners of the wrong forms of Christianity. There is a lot of fragmentation in arguments appertaining to doctrine and denomination. But subtract oil from the equation and the whole situation cannot fail to improve. Drain oil from the wound, so to speak, and what is left are the important features of an embattled land that, in my opinion, would never lead to the clash of arms. Many incendiary clerics, for instance, come from oil rich countries, and their headstrong, artificial elation is the foundation upon which they base so much of their hyperbola and false claims. Oil, like a drug, has led to death-chants. The well-spring of their homicidal rhetoric does not have to be oil, of course. If the root of all evil is the love of money, then evil is as variegated as it is fatal. But oil is certainly the likeliest of the usual suspects in a place that exports more grief than the rest of the world can tolerate.
Another Line in the Sand
Black Gold! Highly Overrated . . . .
Oil is not the greatest show on earth. Recently, the Keystone XL pipeline failed to win approval. A hypocritical decision, maybe, but environmentalism is having its day -- despite a potential of 800,000 barrels per day. Still, my own viewpoint is, pull out the stops, drain the earth as quickly as possible of so vile a substance, then enjoy a peace dividend that will not up and vanish as quickly as the last. The world is never satisfied with what it has to be thankful for. For now, the sooner we are rid of oil, the better. Wars would become infinitely harder to prosecute. Hitler could not have taken Poland, much less France. Israel would not have expanded in 1967. Saddam Hussein would not have invaded Kuwait. ISIS, yet another factor, depends for its survival on illegal oil sales. Hijacking would be less a threat. Automobile casualties would become infrequent. Pollution and its attendant diseases would not be so devastating or as commonplace. In any case, why not let the greasy stuff go? The human race can survive the death of the automobile industry. Why fight so hard for the opposite result?
A general consensus of opinion has it that there is just over fifty years left of supply. Why not hasten the day? I'll be well into my hundreds, so it is not really my fight. Still, if we cannot transcend a culture of oil, then either that's that or a new day will dawn. I believe in the latter only because it makes perfect sense. Oil has not been good for the human race. Neither was coal, come to think of it. It may seem as though oil created a quasi-paradise with great cars, trips all over the world, and the operation of machinery that did away with hardships, and introduced luxury on a scale never before experienced. It is partly true, but equally false. Our nuclear weapons are not as threatening as oil, which actually causes wars and other miseries, to be blunt, brief, and to the point. Ideologies, which might seem to be the problem, are so much bluff. No, it is not all about theological impasses, concepts of humanitarianism, Realpolitik, or irreconcilable political systems. It is, rather, sheer economic power, the motive behind so much overheated verbiage.
Turkmenistan and North Dakota
For Russia, Turkmenistan is an incomparable blessing, holding the world's fourth largest reserve. Gazprom knows what to do, in crafty ways that would startle us, were they applied to the freer world. For us, fracking is an equal blessing. It drove the unemployment rate in North Dakota down to 3%. At present, both Russia and the United States are impossible to conquer. They are not immune to loss, but no victories are in sight for their enemies. Certainly this is the case if fighting has to do with either oil or natural gas. To date, nobody, though Saddam Hussein came close, has started a war, according to the espoused propaganda, over the raw acquisition of oil. Russia is presided over by a leader, however, who has a scholastic background in mining. He knows what he is doing. When he looks at a map, he sees what is underneath as much as on top of the earth. The rest is just chess, favoring the skillful, but never totally devoid of chance. Gone are the days, it seems, when leadership hinged upon abstract values regardless of economic consequences. The 18th and 19th centuries produced fantastic inspirational ideas. The 20th and 21st centuries tried to continue them, but periodically got derailed by the quest for unapologetic, material acquisition.
Although economics appears to be the sole, uncontested master of the billions who comprise the world's population, it is not all about oil either. So, it has a past, a present, and a future. It has pushed the world into a phase from which it has not yet extricated itself. All the same, it is only a factor, one among many. There are more aspects to life than driving motor vehicles or trading energy futures. Some get caught up in the controversy and gravitate into eco-terrorism. It is not healthy to go to extremes, even if a theoretical justification is present. With so much financial gain at stake, oil, no matter how it is brought to the surface, distributed, refined, sold, resold, packaged, re-packaged, and used, is going to disappear after a finite amount of decades. Eventually, it will run out. For some reason, scientists can only make predictions based on information is incomplete. What is the future of oil? It is going to become history is the only viable answer, except that no one can accurately say when.