Wednesday, January 4

Peeking at Peak Oil: Dire Straits


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Are we really going to go to war with Iran over oil? I think there is more than a distinct possibility that we may. I think tensions will rise, whether the swords are drawn, or just rattled in their scabbards.

Great, we've pulled out of Iraq. We never should have gone in. Afghanistan was a mistake too. History should have told us that. The British, the Soviets...both expended far too many resources trying to control that land to no avail. Afghanistan was unofficially known as "Russian's Vietnam" with all the negative implications that go along with that. As a direct result of our support of the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan against the Soviets in a proxy war against our Cold War nemesis, Osama bin Laden developed an intimate hatred of the US.

At this point I think we've stirred up the hornets' nest of the Middle East to the point that we will never be able to exact peace through any means there. We are the infidels, all of us in the West, and they only put aside their differences long enough to lob a few satchel charges in our direction before going back to punching each other in the faces. The timer is ticking. The bomb of Middle Eastern war is on the cusp of exploding and it doesn't matter which wires we cut, it's all going to go boom.

This morning Brent Crude is at $111/bbl and WTI is at $102/bbl. As tensions rise around the Strait of Hormuz those numbers are only going to climb. And climb. And climb.

Iran has long been our (as a nation) nemesis, and they refer to the US as their enemy. We supported Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War. We are staunch allies with Israel, the infidel dogs of the Middle Eastern mind, and we've armed them and stood behind them in every aggressive stance they've taken.

We could walk away. We could leave the Middle East to its own devices. Except we can't.

We are addicted to oil in the worst way. No amount of pandering to the American citizens about independence from foreign oil will ever bring about results, because instead of facing the facts of our addiction our leaders are just asking us to "buy local" from a different supplier. The addiction will not change, only the source.

Every President since Nixon has affirmed that the US must kick its oil addiction--in a bitter ironic moment George W Bush even stated that "America is addicted to oil"--and in the nearly forty years since Nixon said (on the day I was born) "...in the year 1980, the United States will not be dependent on any other country for the energy we need..." we have made little progress in kicking both our habit and our dependence on oil from volatile sources.

So in 2012 we go stomping giddily on the gas pedals of our SUVs bound to go out in a blaze of glory.

If we go to war with Iran, make no mistake, it will NOT be because Iran has somehow wronged us by exercising some control in their own neighborhood. No, if we go to war with Iran it will only be because we are unwilling to seek peaceful solutions to our energy problems. War with Iran over the Strait of Hormuz means we are staking our permanent claim on the fossil fuel resources in the Persian Gulf region.

War with Iran will not end well. And we will not come out looking so fresh-faced and wholesome if we escalate tensions there to justify the conflict. Of course we'll sell any war with Iran as only reactionary and due in part to their intentions to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction. We've used that one in the past with some "success", though I have a feeling that excuse for going to war won't settle well on the stomachs of the American people again.

It was a stretch to pin 9/11 on Saddam Hussein, but pinning it somehow on Iran after all this time just won't work. I think perhaps the statute of limitation may have expired by now. And the bitter irony is that now, as we're seeming to commit to pull out of Iraq and scale back in Afghanistan, that we would be kicking dust in face of another Middle Eastern antagonist is unconscionable.

How does this factor in to a cycling blog? Well, the reality of peak oil is floating to the surface of mainstream media. The concept got some minimal press in 2011. 2012 might just be the year that it leaps into mainstream consciousness and starts getting some ears tingling. And peak oil means that a lot more people are going to be riding bikes in the future than are riding them now.

ADDENDUM

I wanted to reflect a bit on the book I've been reading for my class on Friday. The book is Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, Purpose: Doing Business by Respecting the Earth (2009) by Ray C. Anderson.

Instead, let me just include here a couple of quotes. In COARI Anderson acknowledges peak oil, he uses the term, articulates the concept and urges the reader to act accordingly.

"The very same oil that once created so much wealth and power has become a source of profound weakness."

"...I'm pretty sure that if all the perverse subsidies for oil, coal, gas, and nuclear energy sources were removed and the externalities incorporated into the prices, we might see much the same thing happen to them."

"Turning away from the frantic and thoughtless consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas will not spell the end of the world; it's the beginning of a new world of efficiency and clean technologies—and new fortunes."

"The cheapest, most secure barrel of oil is the barrel that is not used through efficiency, or nega energy."

"When paradigms shift, early movers win."

"Isn't it interesting that the price of oil shoots up as demand for it grows, while the prices of solar technologies fall as the demand for them grows?"

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