The International Writers Magazine: Oil Futures
the present rate of consumption the world will run out of oil in
about 80 years time
of decades ago a little old lady went up to the counter of a fast food
store and asked the attendant a very simple question, Wheres
the beef! The well-dressed employee evaded the answer with all
kinds of elusive statements at the same time employing his marketing
skills to sell the lady the offer of the day. Thus began
one of the most catching and successful adverts on American television
dealing with the products of a chain of hamburger stores. The various
sequels with intelligent variations to the theme were also clever. But
the punch line never changed, it was always the same: Wheres
Using this example to write about the world energy sources and consequently
the global economy, as in the hamburger commercial we keep coming back
to the same source, oil.
We could select an international panel of people from different walks
of life and face them with one question, Wheres the oil?
Im sure that not one would be able to answer the question. Sure,
an intelligent schoolboy or girl would be able to point out the physical
locations of the worlds oil deposits on an Atlas. He or she would
also relate the product to everyday usage such as the gasoline to power
mums car, or the reason for the recent pollution on Spains
beaches by the sinking of an oil tanker. But if asked whether oil had
anything to do with Mr. Bush lambasting Saddam Hussein, or if they thought
that it could affect the price of their daily candy bar, a mixed bag
of answers would reveal that no one really has a clue about the whole
business of oil on this planet.
If we look first at some of the statistics, it would help a little.
Everyone has heard of OPEC, but I wonder if they know what the letters
stand for, Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. And do
they know who they all are? They comprise Algeria, Indonesia, Iran,
Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates
and Venezuela. How about the production itself? Well, these countries
produce on average 80M barrels per day with reserves of around 1.000.000M
still up for grabs. 78% of this energy source is in their hands. What
about the future? If we check out their web page, www.opec.com,
(yes theyre even on Internet) well find that at the present
rate of consumption the world will run out of oil in about 80 years
time. Whats more frightening is that over the next two decades
neither the rate nor the percentage of reliance on oil will change!
There are other forms of energy available but none are anywhere near
reaching a sufficient level of supply to have an impact on oil consumption.
As for the rate of gas guzzling, all fingers point in the upward direction.
To start with we have another large glutten entering the world consumer
market of oil that had not been counted on a few decades ago and will
no doubt turn the tables round. China. The growth rate of this 1.2 billion
country is phenomenal - it is well along the road to needing more electricity,
more cars, more air-conditioning, more roads, more of everything that
is reliant on oil. Although they are also producers of oil, the gap
between production and consumption will grow steadily over the next
few years. The main world consumers continue to be the United States
followed by Japan, but China is soon to catch up and, who knows may
even overtake Uncle Sam. Secondly, if the world economic growth rate
continues, and more and more countries reach a certain degree of affluence,
thus reducing the gap between the rich and the poor, they may well follow
in Chinas steps. It all adds up to having one hell of an impact
on the consumption of oil. (And global pollution.)
But lets revert back to OPEC. They said in their manifesto (1960) that
their objective was to ensure the stability of the world economy by
controlling the flow of oil in relation to supply and demand. This in
turn would help maintain a balance of oil prices. Hogwash! This couldve
been the case 40 years ago. The Middle East was another picture. Apart
from the 1967 war and Gadaffis tomfoolery, Israel and Palestine
were not having a go at each other. The Shah was running Iran and Iraq
had not yet succumbed to the horrors of Saddam Hussein. The rest of
the Arab states were in the throws of rapid investment and development.
But all that has changed. The Shah was thrown out of Iran and the country
reverted to Islamic theocracy. Iraq inherited Saddam and within twenty
years had turned the whole area upside down. Islamic fundamentalism
was born. The September 11th tragedy in New York was the final straw.
Except for Venezuela, OPEC is now run by the world of Islam. This means
that if the world situation continues on its dangerous path of terrorist
attacks against Western values, OPEC will be out of control and each
country could turn the tap on or off whenever it suited them and according
to each and their own political and economic ambitions. This is sobering.
Oil consumption itself and assuming objectively that the present war
in Iraq is abated, what could be a solution? The international forum
of sensible institutions such as the United Nations, the OECD, the World
Bank and others should get together and come to grips to truly identify
the planets physical ills. Keep the USA on a ball and chain! The
next step could be to produce a proper Save the Earth paper
with its corresponding manifesto and set of action points. Energy would
obviously be at the top of the list with a loud and clear message, Conservation
followed by Transformation. If we could just switch off
that unnecessary light, turn off the tap of that wasted hot water, or
walk to the office instead of using the car, it would help. If industry
could develop and introduce, once and for all the electrical cars and
buses followed by commercial rail and shipping transport instead of
large trucks and lorries it may go a far way. I hate to say it but a
change in policy towards the use of atomic energy with a bit of icing
such as wind and solar power is yet another criteria to push hard at
cutting back on oil.
It may sound like Utopia but, we have to start somewhere. Dont
you think so?
© James Skinner. March 2004
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