[Marxism] Re Peak Oil

Rod Holt rholt at planeteria.net
Tue Oct 18 17:31:42 MDT 2005

This discussion is becoming more tangential. I stated that Heinberg was 
not a reliable source. Obviously, each little point is now a big point.

Oddly enough, Heinberg says nothing about Cuba's own production of oil. 
When it comes to evaluating a society's energy consumption -- which is 
what concerns us all -- talking about imports and leaving out domestic 
production is not helpful. Heinberg is anxious to show that Cuba is 
obtaining a world-class "quality of life"  -- which is true, as we know 
-- using just a small fraction of the oil it had been accustomed to. But 
it is not using just a small fraction *any more.* Chavez intervened with 
an oil deal 2000. Further, on June 14, 2005, Chavez and Castro announced 
that Venezuela would increase the oil sent to Cuba on preferential terms 
to 33 million bbl /year. Assuming Cuba has no other source of oil, when 
this added to its own production Cuba has no less than 62million 
bbl/year. Isn't this closer to 2/3rds of the 1989 level? The full 
Heinberg quote is: "One third of Cuba's oil now comes from Venezuela, 
whose president, Hugo Chavez, has adopted a friendly stance toward the 
Castro regime." Now, if "one-third" is even close to the 90,000 bbl/day 
from Venezuela, then Cuba's energy use is pretty close to that of 1989.

Jon: The numbers you presented showed a drastic fall in imported oil in 
the "Special Period" Cuba's economy was shocked and all sorts of 
emergency measures were taken by the Castro regime. Petroleum was 
conserved along with many consumer items because Cuba had to establish 
new trading partners (made even more difficult with the Helms-Burton 
Act). But Cuba did make a recovery and its economy today is not that far 
from what it was in 1989. Heinberg is taking the shock Cuba suffered and 
pretending that Cuba recovered because of its ability to switch to 
organic farming and shift the unemployed to the countryside. That was 
important, but far from the whole story. Although he does not altogether 
ignore the context of social cohesion that made Cuba's survival 
possible, he just doesn't see it as a historical necessity. I quote from 

    I am reminded of events in Cuba during the Special Period: a small
    group of agronomists had been advocating ecological agriculture for
    years previously, with no success; but when oil imports fell and the
    Cuban economy teetered, the nation's political leaders called on
    these marginalized ecological agronomists to redesign the country's
    food system. Something similar could happen globally in the years
    ahead. Perhaps when economies are shattered by the effects of oil
    and natural gas depletion, the prophets of Powerdown -- who are
    today relegated to the fringes -- will be called upon to implement
    some of their plans for conservation and redistribution. Then all of
    their previously thankless analysis and planning will finally pay
    off. (Powerdown, 2004, pg. 184.)

In other words, isn't it Prophet Heinberg's point to paint Cuba as a 
de-industrializing country, one that is returning to its agricultural 
roots (so to speak)?  But it is clear that the astonishing benefits of 
living in Cuba are the result of struggle on every front and not just 
during the Special Period, but for 45 years.

Cuban oil imports and consumption is not a central issue. Contrary to 
Heinberg's thesis, Cuba is NOT a country finding bliss in the 
countryside. And, even if it were, his lifeboat policy of undoing 
industrial developmnt and returning to organic farming would not fly in 
most of the world, where the material conditions of life are a bit 
harsher than this Caribbean island.

Jon Flanders wrote:

>I could only find a figure on Cuba's current oil imports by some
>extrapolation. A common figure from a number of sources for 2001 was
>163,000 barrels a day of consumption which comes to about 59 million
>barrels a year. Cuba is producing more oil now, about 80,000 barrels a
>day. This is about 29 million barrels a year.
>This compares to the 1989 import figure of 95 million barrels a year. So
>Heinberg is again correct. Cuba imports only a third as much oil as it
>did during the glory days of Soviet oil production.
>Jon Flanders
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