(S)Peaking of oil… again

‘Peak oil’ – Newsspeak for ‘too many poor people’
 
by William Bowles • 12 May 2005
   
 

I don’t think there is [a solution to the energy shortage]. The solution is to pray. Pray for mild weather and a mild winter. Pray for no hurricanes and to stop the erosion of natural gas supplies. Under the best of circumstances, if all prayers are answered there will be no crisis for maybe two years. After that it’s a certainty.
Matthew Simmons speaking to Michael Ruppert in 2003. Simmons is the CEO of the world’s largest energy investment bank, Simmons & Company International. Simmons’ clients include Halliburton; Baker & Botts, LLP; Dynegy; Kerr-McGee and the World Bank and he is a close pal of George Bush.

Amen to Mr Simmons’ ‘predictions’. Once more I find myself returning to the subject of ‘peak oil’ as it seems that a good deal of the ‘left’, alongside all the usual suspects are peddling this Peak Oil nonsense. It seems the output of ‘peak oil’ articles is actually outstripping the output of oil. We have to ask the question why?
Intimately connected to the issue of ‘peak oil’ but well camouflaged, is the issue of ‘over-population’, for make no mistake, ‘peak oil’ is a replay by another name of the ‘over-population’ BS made so fashionable in the 1960s. For once more (and this is it what makes me really angry), people who should know better are again dumping on the poor of the planet, for as with the ‘over-population’ disinformation campaign, at the root of the ‘peak oil’ propaganda offensive is the fight for the control over resources for the rich minority of the planet’s population.

Note that the ‘peak oil’ issue is always set in the context of countries like China and India, for nowhere do I see these harbingers of doom advocating changing their OWN consumption patterns, it’s always someone else who has to change theirs eg, 1.6 billion Chinese, but never these comfortable pundits. So screw Michael Ruppert and the host of other alleged progressives who badly need to get a reality check![1]

Whenever the subject of ‘peak oil’ comes up it’s invariably in the context of rising Chinese and Indian demand for the stuff, in other words, they’re competing with ‘us’ for the stuff and by what right do these people who are “darker than blue” have to take ‘our’ oil. This is why the ‘over-population debate’ goes hand-in-hand with the peak oil rubbish, they are, in fact, two sides of the same (devalued) dollar bill.
Firstly, so that there’s no misunderstanding here, I am by no means advocating the unrestrained and wasteful use of oil or indeed any other energy source or primary product, but the fundamental issue here is not ‘running out of oil’ but the fact that it’s the advanced capitalist countries who have to alter their economies, whether we’re running out of oil or not. The Earth is after all bountiful but obviously not a bottomless pit of resources. As with food production, it’s not the amounts but the distribution that’s the crucial issue here.
In addition, it has to be said that the entire history of the development of technology shows that we continually achieve the same or better results with less; less materials, less energy, less labour and so forth. It should come as no surprise then that the ‘peak oil’ disinformation campaign comes along at just the ‘right time’ for the imperium, hovering as it is on the edge of economic meltdown.
If one looks back to the run-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the subject of oil inevitably came up but the Western media poured scorn on the idea, branding it as coming from the ‘conspiracy nuts’ and one should note that of late, the subject of oil in the context of Iraq is almost never mentioned. As far as the media are concerned it’s a non-issue. Instead, the focus is suddenly on ‘peak oil’ and according to the Guardian’s John Vidal, you can “kiss your lifestyle goodbye”[2].
Vidal’s article goes into the subject at length, if not to the depth at which oil is found, quoting the arch-doomsayer of them all, Colin Campbell

About 944bn barrels of oil has so far been extracted, some 764bn remains extractable in known fields, or reserves, and a further 142bn of reserves are classed as ‘yet-to-find’, meaning what oil is expected to be discovered. If this is so, then the overall oil peak arrives next year

Wow, as soon as that! How convenient that it should be next year but closer reading of the piece reveals that it’s not as simple as that, as it depends not only on how ‘reserves’ are measured but who you talk to

[T]he Campbell analysis is way off the much more optimistic official figures. The US Geological Survey (USGS) states that reserves in 2000 (its latest figures) of recoverable oil were about three trillion barrels and that peak production will not come for about 30 years. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that oil will peak between “2013 and 2037" and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Iran, four countries with much of the world’s known reserves, report little if any depletion of reserves.

The doomsayers have been predicting ‘peak oil’ since the 1980s just as in the 1960s we saw a comparable bunch of doomsayers talking about ‘over-population’ and indeed, it seems that ‘over-population’ is once again in the gun-sights of the same bunch of Malthusian hangovers. And it’s no accident that ‘over-population’ and ‘peak oil’ go together in a case of oily feathers flocking together (to mix and ruin a couple of metaphors)[3].

And once again, without getting into a debate about the origins of oil and its relationship to exactly how much oil there actually is, the amount of oil is connected not to the total amount whatever the number is, but whether it’s economically viable for capitalism to extract it[4].

There are many issues wrapped up in the ‘peak oil’ debate, none of which are connected to how much oil there actually is.

First and foremost, oil is fundamental to the capitalist system insofar as a ‘cheap’ source is crucial to an economy that is based on automobiles, air travel and the production of a never-ending supply of crap – sorry, consumer products. And it’s not merely the cost of it but that the US and the UK have unrestrained access to it, free of the troublesome interference of the countries underneath whose land it resides.

Second, if the cost of extraction is below the current cost per barrel (or to be more accurate, the future predicted cost, as prices are determined by the futures trading system not by any real cost of production and distribution), then all those sources that currently cost more to extract than the predicted cost, are not included in the equation of how much oil there is[5].

Third, because oil is so fundamental to the viability of the capitalist system, finding and owning the cheapest sources of the stuff obviously benefits capitalism, as this means more profits. Obvious I know but nevertheless worth pointing out.

Fourth, there can be no doubt that the first oil to be ‘used up’ will be from the sources that are the cheapest to exploit (by ‘used up’, I mean no longer economically viable for capitalism to extract). And given that due to the insatiable appetite of capitalism it will use this stuff first, it is in the interests of the oil conglomerates to raise the cost of oil to the level whereby it becomes economically viable to exploit the more expensive to get at sources.

Fifth, even the most myopic of capitalists now recognise that global warming/climate change presents a ‘clear and present danger’ to the future well-being of the capitalist system (let alone the entire planet), hence it needs to ‘prepare us’ for a swingeing cut in our standard of living. In other words, we need to be ‘softened up’[6] to accept much higher prices for energy or even artificially created ‘shortages’.

Sixth, unless there is fundamental re-ordering of society’s priorities, that is, away from the endless expansion of the production of crap, we need to be ‘persuaded’ to accept the re-introduction of nuclear power as nuke power has, we are told, zero carbon emissions, hence power generated from nukes is a capitalist’s wet dream. Never mind that for the next 250,000 or so years, we’ll have to guard tens of thousands of tonnes of lethal radioactives. What a legacy to leave for future generations to deal with!

What is so insidious about this alleged debate, is how it’s sucked in so many ‘progressives’ into swallowing the myth of peak oil by entangling it with the very real issue of climate change and intra-capitalist oil wars thus muddying the already oily waters. As I pointed out above, the real issue here has absolutely nothing to do with ‘running out of oil’ but of a world competing with the leading capitalist states for the stuff. And critically, once more, as with Iraq, Iran and Venezuela, defying the USUK imperium over the ownership of the black stuff.

But even assuming that oil becomes extremely expensive to extract, the idea that it means the end of so-called civilisation as we know it is itself complete rubbish. What it does mean is the long overdue re-ordering of our priorities, with a fraction of the planet that consume most of just about everything having to, in John Vidal’s words “kiss [their] lifestyle goodbye” and not a moment too soon as this would mean getting rid of capitalism as the major source of the planet’s many problems (although I’m pretty sure this is not what he meant when he wrote the piece).

Notes

1. Eg, see ‘Peak Oil: A Global Economy in Crisis’ by David Chege, www.lefthook.org/Theory/Chege050505.html and
‘Peak Oil-The End Game Has Started’, By Michael C. Ruppert, 30 March, 2004, www.countercurrents.org/peakoil300304.htm
2. ‘The end of oil is closer than you think’, The Guardian’s John Vidal writes that oil production could peak next year … just kiss your lifestyle goodbye, Thursday April 21, 2005, www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,13026,1464050,00.html
3. 9. ‘Discovering Oil’ by Bruce Bartlett, June 10, 2004, www.townhall.com/columnists/brucebartlett/bb20040610.shtml
4. ‘The New Economics of Oil’ Business Week, Nov 1997, www.businessweek.com/1997/44/b3551001.htm and
‘Plenty of oil to go round: OPEC’, May 11, 2005 dailytelegraph.news.com.au/story.jsp?sectionid=1274&storyid=3105216
5. ‘The Energy ‘Crisis’: Futurology without a future?’, William Bowles (17/09/03) www.williambowles.info/ini/ini-098.html and

‘Scientific Evidence Debunks Peak Oil Hoax’, by Gas Resources.net www.conspiracyplanet.com/channel.cfm?channelid=63&contentid=2170

6. See Note 5 above

    
 
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