Petroleum is a dead end

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Atlanta – Petroleum represents a dead end for us all and not just in the sense that it is the byproduct of dinosaurs and other dead organic matter. Oil is over. It is the blood of industry and it is all bleeding out.

I’m not saying that we’re out of oil, I’m saying that its time has passed. We have already passed the point where it makes sense to build an economy and energy plan based on petroleum. The easy to get oil, that which made the machine run cheaply, even if inefficiently, has been collected. Economically, oil is getting more expensive to get out of the ground, more difficult to find, and more costly to refine, to the point that it makes no logical sense to continue to base an economy on this commodity.

Turn any attention to climate change and sustainability and suddenly dependence on oil seems nonsensical. Utilizing a substance that greatly contributes to the degradation of the environment and promotes greenhouse gases would seem to be the actions of an insane society.

What lies behind such insanity? Follow the money. The continuation of an economy based on a substance that is being used up and for which there are already a number of alternatives must be driven by something. That something is the profit of transnational, petrochemical companies that make billions of dollars a year.

In addition to oil and refined gasoline, petroleum is also necessary for plastics, pesticides and pharmaceuticals and is even used in fertilizer. The lawn that looks like a golf course was just one of the ideas foisted upon society for the use of petroleum by products.

Petroleum, to be sure, has fueled (pardon the pun) a new way of life. It has made travel over long distances possible and has led to an interconnected global economy. It has improved the lives of many. So did colonialism, imperialism and the enslavement of others. They also did not go easily into the archives of history. Neither will oil – but it must.

The affront that the current petrol industry does to the world is even greater, in that its effects persist across generations, with the future paying the tab for the present. Relying on an oil based economy is war against future generations. The future is being changed, debts are being incurred and those responsible do not plan to deal with the consequences.

Transnational corporations such as Exxon-Mobil and BP are not interested in planning for the future. They are dedicated, even financially required, to maximize their profits. The fact that the costs of their products will inevitably rise to such levels that energy will be inaccessible to many, if not most, is not a concern. Rising costs will only help mask rising profit margins. The cost of their product is not their concern, only that the world keeps using it. As the costs of petroleum rise, so do the efforts to illegally siphon it from pipelines In Nigeria and many other countries, marginal existences are had on the edges of the fields – until something explodes.

These same corporations dictate any transfer to alternative energy sources. By making sure that any transition occurs on their terms, they can protect the continued use of oil until it is possible to grab control of the other forms of energy. Witness oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens’ efforts towards wind power. Presented almost as altruism on his part he ends up making the profit while the public picks up the tab for infrastructure development. Why doesn’t the public get the profit if it pays the tab?

Does it not seem strange that one of the first fully developed alternative fuels was ethanol through corn conversion? This only had the effect of driving up the price of corn while continuing to burn organic material. It makes one wonder if there is a tie-in between corporate corn producers and petrochemical companies. (Answer: Yes, there is.)

As the price of corn rises, so does the incidence of hunger. Increases in hunger lead to deaths by starvation and malnutrition.

The transportation and refinement of petrol products also create problems for the environment. In some cases, these problems are even greater than those caused by the burning of oil. From the wreck of the Exxon Valdez more than 20 years ago to the disastrous BP Gulf Spill, numerous environments and animals have died and will continue to die as a result of oil spills.

Failure to adapt is an evolutionary dead end. Continued reliance on petroleum as the means to power our world and drive our economy will have predictable results. Petroleum is a dead end. 

Ray Bawarchi
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Ray Bawarchi (b. 1962) is an American author, environmentalist, and columnist. Born in North Carolina, Bawarchi has lived throughout the US. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Auburn University. His early career in psychology involved working in inpatient psychiatric facilities and correctional institutions. He subsequently practiced in a diverse and extensive private practice in Colorado. At present Bawarchi is a professor of psychology at a large public university.

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