Friday, February 06, 2009

Your Oil, My Oil

As part of my graduatification I'm taking a course that examines the depth of oil's entrenchment as a commodity, as a source of conflict, and as a tool of foreign policy. It's actually pretty interesting.

I recently read "The Oil Crisis: This Time the Wolf is Here," by James Atkins from Foreign Affairs, April 1973, and found a pretty poignant excerpt that I pasted below. The "wolf" here is the oil crisis, and it being here this time refers to other experts having been accused of crying wolf when sounding the alarm of an impending oil crisis (which it turns out they did). Atkins' hypothesis of the coming crisis stems from an inflexibly tight coupling between oil demand and supply, the U.S. and developed world's rapacious consumption and reliance on imports from the Middle East and North Africa, the U.S.' support for Israel in the face of the exporting nations, the lack of a cohesive supply disruption contingency plan among the OECD nations (consumers), and, especially, the newly proven success of OPEC at wrenching control from the oil companies. It turns out Atkins got it right, because 6 months later, in October, OPEC instituted the infamous oil embargo that left Americans waiting in miles-long lines waiting to fill up their 400-cubic inch GTOs. To avoid what Atkins viewed as an impending crisis, he recommended the following:

"In the long run, though, the only satisfactory position for the United States
(and to a lesser extent for its main allies) must be the development of
alternative energy sources. The United States is particularly blessed with large
reserves of coal which can be converted to hydrocarbons, and of shale oil. The
United States shares with all nations the possibility of developing geothermal
energy, solar energy, and energy from nuclear fission and fusion. But the lead
time is long for the development of all of them and some are still purely

Suggestions a few years ago for a vast program of development
of new energy sources received no support in the Congress or from the public.
Yet, had the United States a few years ago been willing to accept the realities
which became evident in 1967 or even in 1970, it might have started sooner on
the development of Western Hemisphere hydrocarbons and domestic energy sources."

That kinda sounds familiar, doesn't it? Maybe we can follow through with it a little better this time.

1 comment:

EchoWhiskey said...

Whatever, dude. Gas is back under $1.50 and no one gives a shit anymore. It's amazing how short our memories become when it's convenient. The (still impending) energy crisis is going to be the number one factor in driving this country into the oblivion.