[Marxism] Mike Davis on oil supplies

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue May 25 14:09:44 MDT 2004


The View from Hubbert's Peak
By Mike Davis

Angry truckers celebrated this May Day by blocking freeways in Los 
Angeles and container terminals in Oakland and Stockton. With diesel 
fuel prices in California soaring to record levels in recent weeks, the 
earnings of independent container-haulers have dropped below the poverty 
line. Lacking the power of big trucking companies to pass rising fuel 
costs onto customers, the port drivers -- many of them immigrants from 
Mexico -- have had little choice but to share some of their pain with 
the public.

In one action, abandoned big rigs blocked the morning commute just south 
of downtown Los Angeles on Interstate 5, making tens of thousands of 
motorists temporary hostages of the fuel crisis. As one exasperated 
commuter complained to a radio station, "This is really the end of the 
world."

Perhaps it is. As Venezuela's energy minister Rafael Ramirez told the 
Financial Times on May 24, "The history of cheap oil may have ended."

Although real (inflation-adjusted) fuel prices are still well below 
their 1981 maximum, an ever-growing chorus of voices, ranging from 
former UK environment minister Michael Meacher to National Geographic 
magazine, echo Ramirez. We will soon arrive, they claim, at the summit 
of "Hubbert's peak."

M. King Hubbert was a celebrated oil geologist who in 1956 correctly 
prophesized that U.S. petroleum production would peak in the early 
1970s, then irreversibly decline. In 1974 he likewise predicted that 
world oil fields would achieve their maximum output in 2000; a figure 
later revised by his acolytes to somewhere between 2006 and 2010.

If the curve of global oil production is indeed near the point of 
descent, as these experts believe, it has epochal implications for the 
world economy. More expensive oil will undercut China's energy-intensive 
boom, return OECD countries to the bad old days of stagflation, and 
accelerate the environmentally destructive exploitation of low-grade oil 
tars and shales.

Most of all, it will devastate the economies of oil-importing 
third-world countries. Poor farmers will be unable to purchase 
petroleum-based artificial fertilizers just as poor urban-dwellers will 
be unable to afford bus fares. (Already, rising oil prices have brought 
chronic blackouts to cities throughout the globe's southern hemisphere.)

The only certain beneficiaries of this coming economic chaos will be the 
big five oil corporations and their corrupt partners: the Nigerian 
generals, Saudi princes, Russian kleptocrats, and their ilk. Crude oil 
truly will become black gold.

full: http://www.nationinstitute.org/tomdispatch/index.mhtml?pid=1458
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