Hard Rain Journal 4-4-07: The Twisted Link Between Peak Oil and Global Warming
By Richard Power
Global warming is a moral and spiritual issue.
Thousands of harp seal pups are assumed dead in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence due to the lack of ice floes, which mother seals require to give birth and nurse their pups successfully. Experts with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org
Global warming is a national security issue.
Scores of countries face war for scarce land, food and water as global warming increases. This is the conclusion of the most devastating report yet on the effects of climate change that scientists and governments prepare to issue this week.
More than 60 nations, mainly in the Third World, will have existing tensions hugely exacerbated by the struggle for ever-scarcer resources. Others now at peace - including China, the United States and even parts of Europe - are expected to be plunged into conflict. Even those not directly affected will be threatened by a flood of hundreds of millions of "environmental refugees". Geoffrey Lean, Wars of the world: how global warming puts 60 nations at risk, Independent/UK, 4-1-07
Energy security and environmental security are wholly interdependent, and economic security is utterly dependent on both of them.
If the human race succumbs to corporatism, theocracy or some other form of insanity, it will not survive the 21st Century security and sustainability crisis. If there is a future for the human race, it will be predicated on democratic and humanist principles (e.g., freedom of thought and speech, the pursuit of happiness, etc.) and its historians will be "reality-based," rather than "faith-based." Those future historians will look back on the first decade of the 21st Century with awe and revulsion, and at the core of their awe and revulsion will be a realization of how greed not only overcame conscience but also common sense.
For many years, I have been tracking the great risk and threat stories of our time, e.g., terrorism, cyber crime, sustainability, religious extremism, global warming and peak oil. (It is a strange life in which you spend most of your time hoping you are wrong, but knowing there is a high degree of probability that you are right.) One of the most remarkable (and deeply disturbing) aspects of this work has been following the twisted link between peak oil and global warming.
Among knowledgeable realists, there is a sliding scale of as to the when of peak oil, but only those in profound denial insist that there is unlimited, feasibly extractable oil under the surface of the Earth.
Likewise, among knowledgeable realists, there is an overwhelming consensus that global warming accelerated and aggravated from the human burning of fossil fuels is causing radical and dangerous climate change on a global scale.
Yes, the fuel that drives human industry, commerce and transportation is running out, and at the same time, this fuel is producing greenhouse gases at a rate that is heating up the atmosphere of the planet beyond sustainability of life as we have come to know it.
Well, the solution is challenging but simple, isn't it? Energy security and environmental security are now synonymous. The urgent, overriding imperative is to reduce human dependence on oil and other fossil fuels -- both for the sake of the global economy and our global environment.
Tragically, criminally, and catastrophically for many and perhaps soon for all, the military-industrial complexes of the great nations have chosen a different way -- geopolitical and military hegemony over those lands that hold the greatest reserves.
This hegemony is imposed through bloody conflict, brutal exploitation and brazen corruption, while at home consumers are enveloped in disinformation, denial and distraction (Global warming? Nah. Peak Oil? Nah.) The aim of this racket is to squeeze out maximum profit and consolidate absolute power.
And in aftermath -- when oil production is on the skids, the world's economies are in free fall and the climate is cooked?
Well, when you are deluded enough to think you are a "Master of the Universe" then you are deluded enough to think that you can manage chaos and that depopulation is just a overdue market correction. "Besides," you think in secret, "it wasn't the super-rich that leap from tall buildings on either on Black Thursday or 9/11.
Waking up in the morning, beating your chest and telling yourself you are a "master of the universe" is a great attitudinal technique in this competitive society, but it is very dangerous to adopt it as a fact of nature, and act on it as a birthright.
It is indeed a psychological and spiritual illness just as surely as it is a crime against humanity and nature.
Pyramidal power is established on the strength of the base and the middle. But in this pyramid scheme, those at the top devour those in the middle and at the base.
It is unsustainable.
Jesus said: Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to me. (See Chapter 14, Verse 43, Jefferson Bible.) But in regard to the security and sustainability crisis of the 21st Century, you might as well read it as "Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you not only do to me, but to yourselves."
Here are four recent stories on peak oil:
A report released Thursday by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office concludes that worldwide oil production will eventually grind to a halt and the United States has no strategy in place to deal with the possible catastrophic results.
The report, titled "CRUDE OIL - Uncertainty About Future Oil Supply Makes It Important to Develop a Strategy for Addressing a Peak and Decline in Oil Production," outlines the threat to oil supply posed by global political instability and the lack of new oil field discovery. According to the report, "More than 60 percent of world oil reserves, on the basis of Oil and Gas Journal estimates, are in countries where relatively unstable political conditions could constrain oil exploration and production." These countries include Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Nigeria. Energy market analysts agree that the significant threat of instability in oil producing nations has inflated the price of oil.
As the report demonstrates, it is quite unclear when peak oil production will occur: "The amount of oil remaining in the ground is highly uncertain, in part because the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) controls most of the estimated world oil reserves, but its estimates of reserves are not verified by independent auditors." Despite a lack of reliable information, the report states that "most studies estimate that oil production will peak sometime between now and 2040." Some analysts think world oil production has already peaked. Matt Renner, GAO: Looming Threat to US Oil Supply, Truthout, 3-30-07
It is becoming increasingly clear that global oil production will soon go into terminal decline, with potentially devastating economic consequences.
Although the idea of peak oil has traditionally been ridiculed by the industry, now even some of the world's most senior oilmen concede the case.
Last year Thierry Desmarest, chairman of Total, the world's fourth largest oil company, declared that production would peak by around 2020.
He urged governments to find ways to suppress oil demand growth and put off the witching hour.
Other forecasters are convinced the peak date is even closer. . . .
It is mathematically impossible that peak oil will solve climate change.
Although oil is the biggest single source of energy-related greenhouse gases, coal and gas combined are bigger still, and the expected growth in their emissions would overwhelm any reduction from oil. . . .
Yet by that time, we need to be well on the way to at least a 60% cut in emissions.
In fact peak oil could even make emissions worse if it drives us to exploit the wrong kinds of fuel. . . .
When oil production starts to fall, the economic impacts could well be devastating.
Soaring crude prices could tip the world into a depression deeper than that of the 1930s, and collapsing stock markets cripple our ability to finance the expensive clean energy infrastructure we need.
As the unemployment lines grow, the political will to tackle climate change may be sapped by the need to keep the lights burning as cheaply as possible.
Many environmentalists seem to dismiss or ignore peak oil because they simply cannot see it as significant when compared to climate change.
But this is to miss the point.
Oil depletion is deadly serious in its own right, but it also has the capacity both to worsen emissions and destroy the wealth needed to fight global warming.
For this reason - among others - it too has the power to destroy our civilisation.David Strahan, End of Oil Heralds Climate Pain, BBC, 3-29-07
In a speech to the Institute of Petroleum in November 1999 [Dick Cheney] shed light on our front-page revelation - that in the wake of the occupation of Iraq, Western companies are to be let loose on its vast, and previously state-owned, oil reserves. Perhaps even more importantly he flagged up an impending crisis that the world urgently needs to grasp - that supplies of oil may be about to shrink alarmingly.
The "basic, fundamental building block of the world economy" was, he warned, in danger of becoming extremely scarce.
Estimates suggested that production from existing reserves would soon decline sharply, by 3 per cent a year, even as world demand for oil grew by 2 per cent. That meant that the world would soon need to be producing "an additional 50 million barrels a day", more than half as much again as the 82 million now being wrested from the ground.
"So where is this oil going to come from?" he asked. His answer: the Middle East was "where the prize ultimately lies". The problem was that "governments and national oil companies" controlled almost all of the "assets", and "even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow". Geoffrey Lean, Oil. The Fast-Vanishing Drug the World Can't Yet Live Without
Production may peak within a decade, causing massive withdrawal symptoms to the world and its economy, Independent/UK, 1-7-07
The most notable event affecting the advent of peak oil during 2006 was, most likely, the great summer price spike. Oil started the year around $62 a barrel, steadily increased to just below $80 and then fell to close out the year about where it started. Now there are a number of observations that can be made about this spike. . . . So where do all the developments of 2006 leave us as regards to peak oil? Maybe further than is currently apparent. One thing is for certain, the earth has 30 billion barrels less cheap, easy-to-produce crude at its disposal than it did 12 months ago because we burned it up. World oil production currently is giving every indication of at least plateauing for a while, perhaps forever. Many new production projects are being delayed as the cost of exploration and drilling new wells increases to unheard of heights. Oil availability for the rich nations still appears adequate because the poor are shutting down. But this is a one-time phenomenon. Soon, increasing demand from the rich and rapidly developing nations will cause them to bid against each other for stagnant or decreasing production.
Then the troubles will begin in earnest. Tom Whipple, The Peak Oil Crisis: 2006 in Review, Falls Church News-Press, 1-4-07
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Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and Words of Power. His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to www.wordsofpower.net
Global Warming, Energy Security, Environmental Security, Alternate Energy, Sustainability, Green Power, Renewable Resources, Climate Change, Weather, Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, IFAW, Peak Oil, Stop Global Warming!, David Strahan, Cheney, GAO, Richard Power, Words of Power