Paolo Chiocchetti tomjoad82 at libero.it
Mon Aug 11 07:49:00 MDT 2003

Hi everybody and nice to meet you! I'm an Italian student of Political
Science of left-wing views, extremely interested in Marxism (when not
stalinist, dogmatic and sectarian).

I would like to reply to Mark Jones post about oil exhaustion (hoping not to
repeat already-made interventions).
It's certainly true that oil is a scarce resource, bound to reach the peak
somewhen and then decline, of major importance for the 20th century
capitalist economy and major stake in geopolitics.

But don't you think that the cathastropical predictions of an oil exhaustion
within 20 or 40 years are naive and un-dialectic?

This for three main reasons:
1. New wells will be discovered and exploited, with better tecniques, which
will make the world reserves last longer (though many experts says that we
should expect to discover less and less of them).
2. Improvement in technology, driven by the rising costs of oil, will allow
to do the same work (drive a car, produce electricity, etc.) with less oil.
3. The rising cost of oil will open space for other (already-known or
unknown) sources of energy. So works historically capitalism: when a source
of energy begins to become too expensive, other sources begin to find a mass
market and can stimulate R&D activities which in turn enhance their
productivity, lower their costs and adapt the functioning of machines, tools
etc to them. This happened in the transition from wood to coal as the main
source of energy, and again in the transition from coal to oil.

By the way, exactly because the rising cost of oil in the 70s, the oil share
of all sources of energy has greatly declined in the last 20 years. And the
fear of new sources of energy and of new oil-saving techniques is one
driving motive for the general policy of OPEC of avoiding the oil prices to
rise too much.

In conclusion, the rise of oil prices due to scarcity is obviously alarming
from the ecological point of view, because once exhausted, it's exhausted.
But it will not mean in any case the cathastrophical fall of capitalism and
humanity. Other sources will be exploited, developed, and made technically
and economically feasible options, like the nuclear energy, more
environment-friendly kinds of renewable energy (sun, wind, water,
combustion, hidrogen) or sources yet unknown.


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