A Slippery Slope

An examination
by Chris Hibbard

A Slippery Slope

Some of the most widely respected scientific and economic thinkers in the world have reached a startling conclusion. Our oil supplies are running out, and fast.

At one point, it was predicted that North American oil supplies could last an estimated 40 years, at present production and usage rates. This estimate seems to have been on the high side.

The year 2000 was considered the year of global Peak Oil, in which we were at maximum production and minimum usage. Since then, the demand has begun to outpace worldwide production. It is estimated now that by the year 2020, the oil produced will equal that of the 1980’s, in consideration of the expected population increase of approximately 100%.

As a result of the demand for oil being greater than the supply, the price for oil will skyrocket, leading to oil-dependant economies crashing or crumbling, and wars erupting over the limited supply of resources.

But what does this mean to the average person, i.e. you and I? A lot.

Petrochemicals are key components to almost every aspect of our modern way of life.
They are necessary for more than just putting some gas in tanks. They are, for the most part, necessary for us to put food in our bellies.

It takes approximately ten calories of fossil fuels to produce just one calorie of food eaten in the U.S. This is because almost every step of food production is made possible through fossil fuels and petrochemical powers.
The pesticides we spray on our crops are made from oil, and our commercial fertilizers are made from natural gas. All of our farm machinery is constructed with and powered by oil. Our refrigerators are made in oil-powered plants, distributed by gas-driven engines, and run on electricity, which itself often comes from natural gas and coal. Not to mention, if we consider that it is not unusual for one piece of food to travel between 1,000 and 5,000 miles before it gets to your plate, from where it is produced to where it is consumed.

Let us not forget that as well as transport and agriculture, our modern medicines, water treatments and distribution centres, and our oh-so-important national defense complex are each entirely powered by oil and petroleum, be it through chemical processing or machine operation. And of course, the all-powerful material known as plastic is made with petroleum products. Plastic being essential for all of our computers and high-tech gadgetry.

Some might say that we have alternate sources of energy – renewable energy – such as solar panels, wind turbines, hydrogen fuel cells, and bio-diesel products. What these people might forget however, is that to produce and engineer these alternate sources on a large scale, sophisticated technology is required. Technology that makes use of silver, copper, and platinum ore, all of which are still discovered, located ,extracted, transported and fashioned using good old oil-powered machinery.
Nuclear energy requires uranium, and requires more power to run more complex machinery.

In essence, the so-called “alternatives” to oil are actually either derived of oil, or processed and maintained with it. Without an abundant and reliable supply of oil, we have no way of manufacturing these alternatives to the degree that would be necessary to power the modern world.

I will barely even begin to mention the fact that our global finance and economic system is entirely dependent on a supply of oil and gas that is constantly increasing, not decreasing. Banks create capital by lending more than they have on deposit, confident that tomorrow’s expansion is collateral for today’s shortfall. The decline of oil undermines the entire world banking system.

If the oil runs out, we will likely wish that we had learned more about traditional ways of life, or at least listened more closely to the predictions of experts, for we may be ‘back to nature’ so to speak, sooner than we can possibly imagine.

Will we be alive to see the second Great Depression? It is entirely plausible. If the oil runs out, millions would lose their jobs. Farm equipment would come to a stop, and famines could occur. Civil unrest and outright war over remaining supplies could erupt. Suburban soccer dads would walk to WalMart and Costco, not to buy medium quality goods made in China, but to scavenge whatever glass, wood, and copper wire they could find.

Even current vice-president of the U.S. Dick Cheney has alluded to this, as far back as 1999, a convenient two years before Sept. 11, and the following ‘invasion’ of Iraq, a central point in accessing the Middle East’s oil supply.

“By some estimates, there will be an average of two-per cent annual growth in global oil demand over the next ten years, along with, conservatively, a three-percent natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a day.

This might sound complicated, but what he’s really saying is that the oil producing nations of the world, in 1999, were pumping at full capacity but struggling to produce much more than 84 million barrels per day. In order to produce 134 million barrels a day, like he predicted, Earthlings would need to find oil sources that are practically unlimited – perhaps on a distant planet?

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~ by Chris Hibbard on October 31, 2008.

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