Sunday, April 20, 2008

Oil "Crisis"

I always troll the New York Times and occasionally other papers while conducting research for my individual project and for our energy class in general. This Sunday's edition has prompted me to stray from my individual project topic (climate change) and blog about "The Big Thirst" as written by Jad Mouawad in the Times. Of course, when oil is closing at record highs ($117/bbl), you would expect to hear more about it.

So reading the article about the United State's oil thirst, and the emerging oil use markets like China and India, it all points to higher prices unless you can find more of the stuff. And that's the problem. Mr. Mouawad quotes more than one oil industry CEO opining about limited access to new oil frontiers. Our oil companies are being shut out by foreign governments seemingly everywhere.

Maybe this article was designed to make me think how screwy we are to think that the oil (untapped) was always going to be ours for the taking. That seems to be the way we think. Instead of doing much about the problem, we count on the price coming back down (distaster averted) because the supply crunch is temporarily eased, and that the longer term supply picture will just somehow work itself out. But is doesn't seem to be working that way.

One might argue that raising the fuel efficiency standards by 2020 to 35 mpg will do the trick. It may ease the problem, but if the oil demand continues the recent upward trend, I can't imagine this will be enough and soon enough. What about the here and now? Why wait to purchase an efficient car 12 years from now when we plan to replace the one we have next year? I know this sounds naive. I hide my lack of sympathy well.

We should think carefully about the facts. China is adding cars to their roads at a phenomenal rate (article suggests they will have 300 million on the road by 2030. The demand for refined petroleum products is not going down. Other governments are not going to miraculously give Western oil companies greater access unless their own companies lack the technology to get the oil out of the ground. Seems to me this is only going to lead to very expensive oil compared to what we have been paying. But you didn't have to hear it from me in this blog entry. Just at the look at the price of a barrel of oil. You really don't even have to listen to the endless jabber by the talking heads on the tele to understand where this will lead.

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