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General News    H3'ed 7/26/22

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Oil Rules the World

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Heat, heat, heat. It's a world of firsts, of records that no one could ever have wished for. From my own childhood, I remember the A.A. Milne poem that began:

"They're changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace "
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
A soldier's life is terribly hard,
Says Alice."

That was written in 1924. Today, with Great Britain breaking historic heat records and the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace "curtailed" thanks to blazing temperatures, it would have to be rewritten as: "A soldier's life is terribly hot, says Alice."

Yes, Britain just hit an all-time heat record " and we're talking about a country that's kept such records for at least a century and a half " when the thermometer reached 40.2 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit, at London's Heathrow Airport. Records have been falling in a similarly sweltering fashion across a (quite literally) blazing Europe. But Central Asia is once again baking, too, and don't forget this country, where summer heat records across a drought-stricken West and Midwest are being surpassed daily, even as unprecedented fires have been burning from New Mexico to Alaska. Meanwhile, in the world's oceans, plankton are dying at a startling rate, thanks to the burning of fossil fuels.

The Washington Post recently published a set of heat maps of parts of this planet. They're stunning to look at in a moment when Joe Biden, who ran for president on a climate-change-abating platform, traveled to Saudi Arabia to get that Kingdom to pump yet more oil into our world. As TomDispatch regular Michael Klare suggests today, the Earth isn't just sweltering. We're burning it up, thanks to the major fossil-fuel companies that, having known about global warming and its dangers since at least the 1980s, spent decades funding climate denialism and are now quite literally blazing their own paths through our world, making untold fortunes as the war in Ukraine continues to drive global gas prices up.

When we use the word "tyrant," we normally mean a singularly autocratic ruler. But Klare is right. The true tyrants of planet Earth in this century aren't either Vladimir Putin or any of his kith and kin. They're the CEOs of the major oil companies who remain all too ready to burn our futures (record profits!) to ashes for their own passing well-being. So, as the summer heat rises on a planet setting heat records daily, take a moment to consider with Klare who the real tyrants of planet Earth are (and don't say I never told you so myself). Tom

The Enduring Tyranny of Oil
War, Inflation, Geopolitical Rivalry, and Soaring World Temperatures


It may seem hard to believe, but only 15 years ago many of us were talking confidently about "peak oil" the moment of maximum global oil output after which, with world reserves dwindling, its use would begin an irreversible decline. Then along came hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the very notion of peak oil largely vanished. Instead, some analysts began speaking of "peak oil demand" a moment, not so far away, when electric vehicle (EV) ownership would be so widespread that the need for petroleum would largely disappear, even if there was still plenty of it to frack or drill. However, in 2020, EVs made up less than 1% of the global light-vehicle fleet and are only expected to reach 20% of the total by 2040. So peak-oil demand remains a distant mirage, leaving us deeply beholden to the tyranny of petroleum, with all its perilous consequences.

For some perspective on this, recall that, in those pre-fracking days at the start of the century, many experts were convinced that world petroleum output would hit a daily peak of perhaps 90 million barrels in 2010, dropping to 70 or 80 million barrels by the end of that decade. In other words, we would have little choice but to begin converting our transportation systems to electricity, pronto. That would have caused a lot of disruption at first, but by now we would be well on our way to a green-energy future, with far less carbon emissions and a slowing pace of global warming.

Now, compare those hopeful scenarios to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). At the moment, world oil production is hovering at around 100 million barrels daily and is projected to reach 109 million barrels by 2030, 117 million by 2040, and a jaw-dropping 126 million by 2050. So much, in other words, for "peak oil" and a swift transition to green energy.

Why global oil consumption is expected to hit such heights remains a complex tale. Foremost among the key factors, however, has certainly been the introduction of fracking technology, permitting the exploitation of mammoth shale reserves once considered inaccessible. On the demand side, there was (and remains) a worldwide preference " spearheaded by American consumers " for large, gas-guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks. In the developing world, it's accompanied by an ever-expanding market for diesel-powered trucks and buses. Then there's the global growth in air travel, sharply increasing the demand for jet fuel. Add to that the relentless efforts by the oil industry itself to deny climate-change science and obstruct global efforts to curb fossil-fuel consumption.

The question now facing us is this: What are the consequences of such a worrisome equation for our future, beginning with the environment?

More Oil Use = More Carbon Emissions = Rising World Temperatures

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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