Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Blood and Treasure
There's an interesting article up on the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, of doomsday clock fame, about the finitude of planet earth's oil resources:
One hundred and twelve billion of anything sounds like a limitless quantity. But in terms of barrels of oil, it's just a drop in the gas tank. The world uses about 27 billion barrels of oil per year, meaning that 112 billion barrels--the proven oil reserves of Iraq, the second largest proven oil reserves in the world--would last a little more than four years at today's usage rates.
In the future, 112 billion barrels will likely prove even shorter-lived. In the United States, gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and larger homes are deemed essential. As the underdeveloped world industrializes, demand for oil by billions of people increases; China and India are building superhighways and automobile factories. Energy demand is expected to rise by about 50 percent over the next 20 years, with about 40 percent of that demand to be supplied by petroleum.
Ever-increasing supplies of low-cost petroleum are thought to be vital to the U.S. and world economies, which is why the invasion of Iraq and the belief that controlling its 112-billion-barrel reserve would give the United States a limitless pipeline to cheap oil were so dangerous. The war in Iraq will definitely have an effect on the U.S. and world economies, but not a positive one. The invasion, occupation, and rebuilding of Iraq will cost the people of the United States both blood and treasure. But more to the point, Iraq could be a fatal distraction from many fundamental and extremely unpleasant facts that actually threaten the United States--one of which is the finite nature of petroleum resources.
Petroleum reserves are limited. Petroleum is not a renewable resource and production cannot continue to increase indefinitely. A day of reckoning will come sometime in the future. The point at which production can no longer keep up with increasing demand will mean a radical and painful readjustment globally to everyday life.
Well, you know, at least after the oil runs out we'll all get to live in one of those cool post-apocalypse Mad Max worlds where we drive around in dune buggies and fight each other with boomerangs and nailguns -- my plan is I'm going to be the guy who has the homemade helicopter. Or I guess the human race could get serious about developing alternative renewable energy sources ... but that's just crazy talk.
(link thanks to thoughts on the eve of the apocalypse which is once again active)