Oil's not well, so let's find alternative
By Ike Awgu
Anyone who's young, particularly below the age of 30, should pay special attention to the content of this column.
You and your future children may well be living through an age of crisis and worse, our government and citizens seem blissfully unaware of anything more than its most simple ramifications.
The catastrophe I speak of stares us in the face each time we fill up our gas tanks, hop on the bus, or even turn on our air conditioners. If the status quo remains unaltered, an energy crisis is coming, and its effects will strike at my generation, as well as those following it, with an ever increasing urgency.
The sky is not falling, but bits of cloud are slowly beginning their descent. The crisis we face is not simply one of oil (despite the obvious increase in the price of gasoline we all see at the pumps) but quite literally a comprehensive shortage of energy. The shortage is merely most apparent and first evidenced, by our imminent depletion of cheap oil.
By 2035 some experts believe that demand for oil may rise to as high as 140 million barrels a day, meaning oil companies will need to discover, produce, refine and bring to the market, 140 million new barrels of oil every 24 hours, day after day, year after year, without fail. Yet, the oil industry is among the least stable of all business sectors, tremendously vulnerable to natural disasters, destructive swings in price due to speculation, and to this day remains utterly dependent on corrupt, despotic "petro-states" with uncertain futures, monstrous leaders and an oppressed populace.
Simply building production capacity to keep up with demand as high as 140 million barrels per day would cost up to a trillion dollars, and that's not including the cost of defending and protecting such an infrastructure.
Human cost involved
Nor does it include what's arguably the most important calculation of all, the human cost of such an infrastructure. A "petro-diplomacy" that forces the world's freest and most democratic nations to tolerate its most backward and corrupt governments. Some of which, like the government of Nigeria, are currently holding out their begging bowls at the G8 conference in Scotland.
The human cost of our oil dependency is our complicity with corruption and barbarism through support of backward governments like those in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, and other petro-states.
What many people fail to understand about our coming crisis is that scarce oil means scarce electricity. And by 2020, demand for electricity in North America could be 70% higher than what it is today. Yet, since most electric power is generated in gas and coal-fired power plants, producing all that new power would mean putting an even greater strain on current supplies of oil.
Coal fired plants (the likes of which Dalton McGuinty is planning to close) pollute horribly and North America doesn't have the hydropower resources to satisfy enormous demand growth. Nuclear power, which may be a potential solution, is habitually bogged down with so much political, environmental and hippie rhetoric that government policy on the matter habitually suffers.
In places such as Alaska, Chad and the South China Sea, oil firms are already combing the earth for major oil deposits -- they're not finding them. There is more oil to be discovered and extracted, but nothing on par with the titanic finds of the early '60s and '70s.
Around the world, the diplomatic, economic and military strategists of nearly every nation obsess over one objective -- maintaining access to a steady supply of energy. Oil or resource wars are an inevitable contingency of such strategizing.
To ward off this catastrophe, our governments and private industry must find a cheap and alternative source of transportation energy. Thankfully progress is being made, and almost monthly we hear new positive things about alternatives to fossil fuels. Our time to find these alternatives however, like our supply of oil, will eventually run out.