Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Peak Oil In Military Time

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day when the power of student organizing was harnessed to make people think about the environmental degradation obvious to all. Clean air, clean water and government regulation to enforce a decent living envoironment for people grew out of that leaderless movement. Now Climate Change is upon us and no one really seems to know how this unpredictable change will affect us exactly. Harsher weather, unpredictable climates, storms and atmospheric violence, drought, famine and displacement.

Against this apocalyptic backdrop the only arrow we humans have in our collective quiver is the suggestion that we make changes, lots of them and in a hurry. So far the pace of change has been languid at best and half hearted mostly. Politicians have got in the way of course as the scientists fail hopelessly to make an irrefutable case of a likely scientific hypothesis. So we do nothing to alleviate any possible impact we may have on potentially catastrophic changes coming down the pike.

I justify my listlessness on the grounds I have no issue- I am child free and hence grandchild free also. Thus it is that whatever may happen in 2050 (the new benchmark- when I was a child everything was going to happen by the year Two Thousand, the social speculators told us) will have no impact on me. I will be dead in 40 years, and because I am human I try to ignore the possibility of evolving changes as we march toward that uncompromising deadline. Now however a group of thinkers in the US military have put their oar in and all those conformist anti-gummint types will have to hunker down even further as they contemplate a future that continues in the manner of the immediate past, all growth all the time they demand.

A shadowy military think tank called the Joint Operating Environment, whose job it is to contemplate what might go wrong and how to deal with it militarily is suggesting we are about to run out of surplus oil and not in forty years, but figuratively speaking tomorrow. Ranting on about government regulations is one thing, arguing with military planners is quite another.

The military thinkers suggest surplus production may last until 2012 when all oil produced will be sold for immediate consumption with none to spare. The inescapable conclusion if that suggestion is correct is that prices will rise, we all know that. By 2015 the JOE says capacity will be 10 million barrels shy every single day and considering we are around 82 million daily in production today that is a lot of shortage. Imagine price rises in response to that fiasco. And remember these are military people, not politicians nor scientists who are trying to figure out how to run the world's biggest military without energy. Because what we all know is that China will have the cash to buy the oil and we will have the debt.

We can hope that this paper made public now will spur debate of a serious kind but it probably won't. Peak Oil is still a vague concept not well know to the mainstream press and still mostly reserved for geeks like me who like to read a lot. So, is it time to dump the gas guzzler yet and prepare for a world where oil production cannot hope to meet demand? A good idea for you and me, but not so easy for a military on the move around the globe. Who are those pesky gadflies who keep predicting increasing resource wars to fund our need for energy? Whoever they are they have the US Military on their side now..


Danette said...

It's not clear from your musings here if you read the JOE--no small feet! (that's what you get for photographing your fuchsia crocs so often) or if you read it it elsewhere. I opened the document but decided 9 p.m. was too late to sort through it- then found the Energy Bulletin's review of it. I was reading this rather frightening review of a more frightening report when I came to this statement, "While the JOE warns, “The implications for future conflict are ominous,” it fails to mention the strains which a severe oil supply crunch could place on civil order at home. It acknowledges the resulting potential for a prolonged US recession, deep cuts to defense spending, and diminished capabilities “at the moment they may have to undertake increasingly dangerous missions” (p. 28). However, the JOE makes no mention of the serious and predictable strains on the North American social fabric."

So Armageddon may just come to be-- but not quite what the religious zealots hope it to be. And they will be the ones that are too late to realize their mistake.

Conchscooter said...

I readna analysis of the JOE report. I don't think people are going to be very entusiastic about the drop in living standards that will come with the end of cheap energy. If the increased cosst come slowly it will be easier to take but the shock of a leap to $4 a gallon, increased air fares, increased food costs all at once make people grumpy as the mainstream isn't preparing them for these problems.The entire country should be discussing the military analysis the way everyone has an opion about the golfer's dick.