The Screaming-Meemies Background of Oil Strategy

The consensus of opinion among many writers that I think are sound is that the upcoming war (praise God, may it NOT happen) is about oil. It's not so much that we want to steal the oil, but that we (that is, the USA) want to control its flow. And we certainly want to maintain the dollar market for oil and not let world oil vanish into the embrace of the euro.

Oil is the gold of the day, black gold, with one vast difference from real gold: unlike gold, oil is consumed. Most of the gold that was ever mined in the whole history of the globe is sitting in bank vaults, private hoards, and the jewelry collections of individuals all over the world.

But we have already consumed more than half of all the oil there ever was on earth (according to current "best estimates"). Where that came from there is still some more, but it's a dwindling supply, with an end in sight, and, according to some very brainy people who represent themselves as experts in this area, with no known alternative on the horizon. I have no reason to doubt them.

This unpleasant prospect is causing some deep thinkers to really get going on long-term strategy. I have lately been looking into the websites where the bad news about oil is spelled out. I would not conceal from you that these are not cheery sites. The URL of one of them is neat and punchy: http://dieoff.org/.

The "dieoff" is — not to put too fine a point upon it — what is going to happen when the oil runs out. It is, in fact, what will begin happening well before the oil runs out, as the various parties, perhaps as soon as this week, make unfriendly moves to secure what they think is their share. A world without oil, say these oil-strategy thinkers, is not a world that can support 6 billions of human beings. It is not a world that can support 3 billions. It may not even be a world that can support one billion. It will be, to put it bluntly, a "Stone-Age world."

Robert C. Duncan, Ph.D. (of whom more later), has put this point in a mot: "If God made the earth for human habitation, then He made it for the Stone Age mode of habitation."

And the dieoffers — I'll call them that — are not talking about our having several centuries to ease into a lowered population. They envision a catastrophic end to the era of fossil-fuel exploitation, a radical collapse of the entire world industrial system within the 21st century, a collapse that, they say, actually began about the year 2000, will quicken in pace till about 2012, and then drop off a cliff in the run-up to about 2030, when the lights will have begun to go out permanently, and there will be, so to speak, need to train candle makers, if wax can be found.

A key date for this theory is 1979, when world energy production per capita peaked. (Energy production is still increasing but not as fast as population.) We have been on the down slope since. I am not competent to evaluate statements made by the scientists saying these things, but I am sufficiently impressed by their writings and their status in the energy field that I insist they cannot be taken lightly. You can't just say pish and tosh to their research and writings, that is, if you read them at all; but you certainly may keep yourself resolutely unaware of them, or blind yourself to the points they are making by simply asserting that what they say is not true. Those seem to be the only choices.

An interesting reflection is to consider the present international face-off in terms of the absolute gloom projected by the dieoffers. The junta at present in charge of our Banana Empire is largely constituted of oil folk. They not only cannot be ignorant of the views I am talking about, it is almost certainly the case that they are proceeding as they are because they hold the same views; and in the interests of what they consider true American patriotism, intend to grab control of the oil scene worldwide while they still can, so as not to let "command" slide off either to Muslims or Chinese or any combination in Europe.

Of course that is to take the shortsighted, high-time-preference view of world affairs: I want mine NOW, and let the devil take the rest, including posterity. But as Hans-Hermann Hoppe has convincingly argued, high time preference is what our politicians specialize in. Aprs moi, le dluge is their motto, and meanwhile — to keep up the French — laisser les bons temps rouler.

A further point Duncan makes on the dieoff site involves where control of oil must go in the years immediately ahead. About the year 2008 the OPEC nations will be producing more than 50% of the world's oil; thereafter OPEC will control nearly 100% of the world's oil exports. OPEC finally takes over, unless. . . .

I would not blame you if you are now impatient with this presentation. Does one have to buy such negative views, and what's so terribly wrong with the Muslim/Arab folk having total control of oil exports? They're going to have to sell their oil to get any good out of it, aren't they?

That assumes the continuation of a somewhat reasonable world interested in and capable of simple trade: I buy, you sell, and we're both happy.

The dieoff people make the opposite assumption. We are headed very soon into a world, they say, where sheer physical survival is the issue, and I am not talking about whether you'll have to swap your SUV for a moped, but whether or not you are going to eat, have water, and have heat (or cooling) for your house. They say you won't, after, approximately 2030 and in various places, sooner.

In addition to the site I've already mentioned, I suggest you look at Jay Hanson's "synopsis" of the energy situation and then go back and overview the main site with all its links. I don't have any idea who Jay Hanson is, but he has done a monumental labor in bringing data together and interpreting it all.

Interpretation is the problem, of course. Very likely everything the dieoffers say about the years up until the present is true, and their projections into the future are, I say, quite compelling. But we have seen Ehrlich's "population bomb" turn into a bad joke, Y2K disappear down the memory hole, and the USSR vanish in a puff of smoke. Who could have read our present situation as short a time as five years ago? The future is, really, unknown, and one always ends up looking like a jackass by pretending to know it.

But I assure you I have not done justice to the force of the data and arguments presented by the dieoffers. They are certainly not counting on me to advance their cause. In fact they don't even appear to have a cause; since they say there are no doors out of the trap the world is in. Not coal, not gas, not nuclear, not solar, not fuel cells, not wind, not anything. The prospects for all of these are reviewed and found wanting.

This appears to be a singular situation calling for a singular shift in consciousness on the part of the whole human race. Perhaps it will come. I only have to live to be 110 or so to find out if such a change comes before the shutdown predicted by the dieoffers or whether the shutdown occurs at all. I just may hang around to see how it works out.

March 18, 2003