Saudi Oil Bombshell
Saudi Oil Bombshell
Right now, the price of a barrel of crude oil is flirting with $60; a Chinese state-controlled oil company has made an $18.5 billion bid for the American oil firm, Unocal -- you remember, the company that fought to put a projected $1.9 billion natural gas pipeline through Taliban Afghanistan and hired as its consultant Zalmay Khalilzad, presently our Afghan ambassador and soon to be our ambassador to Iraq; world energy consumption, according to last week's British Financial Times, surged 4.3% last year (the biggest rise since 1984), oil use by 3.4% (the biggest rise since 1978); in the meantime, Exxon -- which just had the impunity to hire Philip Cooney after he was accused of doctoring government reports on climate change and resigned as chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality ("The cynical way to look at this," commented Kert Davies, U.S. research director for Greenpeace, "is that ExxonMobil has removed its sleeper cell from the White House and extracted him back to the mother ship.") -- has quietly issued a report, The Outlook for Energy: A 2030 View, predicting that the moment of "peak oil" is only a five-year hop-skip-and-a-pump away; "Oil Shockwave," a "war game" recently conducted by top ex-government officials in Washington, including two former directors of the CIA, found the United States "all but powerless to protect the American economy in the face of a catastrophic disruption of oil markets," which was all too easy for them to imagine ("The participants concluded almost unanimously that they must press the president to invest quickly in promising technologies to reduce dependence on overseas oil..."); and oil tycoon Boone Pickens, chairman of the billion-dollar hedge fund BP Capital Management, is having the time of his life. ("I've never had so much fun...") Over the last five years, he claims, his bet that oil prices would rise has "made him more money... than he earned in the preceding half century hunting for riches in petroleum deposits and companies," and he is predicting that prices will only go higher with much more "pain at the pump." Ah, the good life. And if you don't quite recognize the new look of this fast-shifting energy landscape, then how are you going to feel if the Age of Petroleum turns out to be drawing -- more rapidly than most people imagine -- to a close?
Well, hold your hats, folks. Michael Klare, an expert on "resource wars" and the author of the indispensable Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency, discusses a new bombshell book by oil industry insider Matthew Simmons, and his unsettling news that everything you've heard about those inexhaustible supplies of Saudi oil, which are supposed to keep the world floating for decades, simply isn't so. This is real news and absorbing its implications is no small matter.
Imagine, just for the sake of argument, where we might be today, energy-wise, if Americans -- and American legislators â€“- had actually taken Jimmy Carter's famed 1979 "moral equivalent of war" speech on energy conservation seriously, but rejected his Carter Doctrine and the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force that went with it -- both of which set us on our present path to war(s) in the Middle East. Here's part of what Carter said to the American people on television that long-ago night:
"Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980s, for I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade -- a saving of over 4-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day... To give us energy security, I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel -- from coal, from oil shale, from plant products for gasohol, from unconventional gas, from the sun... I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every state, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle. This effort will permit you to build conservation into your homes and your lives at a cost you can afford..."
Well, it never happened. And thus the importance of Matt Simmons' news.
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]