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Drowning in oil

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Drowning in oil

Sweet as Tandy: Even as oil reserves become depleted, we’re in over our heads in the stuff.

Alex Tandy

Issue date: 9/15/08 Section: Opinion
Powerful nations such as Russia and the U.S. will be jockeying for position when it comes to oil control.

Media Credit: Lauren Miller
Powerful nations such as Russia and the U.S. will be jockeying for position when it comes to oil control.
Alex Tandy - Opinion Editor

Alex Tandy – Opinion Editor

The world has a fundamental problem with its current system of living. Humans run their lives off of oil, but usable oil is running out. Predictions on how much longer we will have usable oil have ranged from 25-100 years if we continue to expend it at the current rate. One reason the predictions tend to be so far apart is that there are untapped reserves throughout the world. These reserves have proven to be harder to drill, and thus are more expensive to acquire. The expense in these cases, outweigh the profit and thus oil companies would be drilling into debt. Which still brings the question, how long is 100 years, really? I could potentially live that long. In one lifetime I could see a stalwart, oil dependent world prove itself to be built like a house of cards.

A troubling thought, but what disturbs me more is the power that oil has on other aspects of our life and society. Anything that is useful yields power to the beholder. The ownership of oil indefinitely means power because of its usefulness in the world. John D. Rockefeller knew this and he capitalized on the theory. Rockefeller’s company at one point controlled over 85 percent of the oil flow in the United States. Standard Oil dissolved into multiple companies because it was deemed a monopoly in 1911. Rockefeller became the richest man in the world thereafter.

What exactly drove Rockefeller to oust all of his competitors and the largest monopoly on oil the world had ever seen? I’d argue it was more than money, it was power. The dirty vice of greed is found in both of these. This isn’t to say that Rockefeller wasn’t a brilliant businessman, but it is to say that he had an insatiable appetite for more.

Rockefeller’s business model has permeated throughout the world as well as his hunger for more. When Standard Oil was broken up in 1911, two splintered companies were present day ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell. Today, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell are two of the largest companies in the world, in fact rated numbers two and three in 2008 by Fortune 500 magazine. Exxon and Shell learned well from ‘ol John D.

Furthermore, the global dependency on oil has made a tremendous impact on the foreign policy of various nations worldwide. America’s foreign policy has been and continues to be aggressive in its quest for more oil. This is, in part, because of the cushioned lifestyle that many Americans cannot abandon. What many Americans don’t know is that gas is two, to two and a half times as expensive in European nations such as England, Norway, France and Italy. Yet, we will continue to complain and the current administration did a lot within its power to keep the prices of oil from rising too drastically.

To recap, we are running out of the resource that runs us, we have greed attached to this resource, we have ignorance of the problem and a lack of will to change. What about our future? Is it possible that the powerful industrialized nations will take fighting past economic bidding battles? 

Arguably the war in Iraq shows the scrambling for oil between east and west. Late August marked a major oil deal worth around $3 billion between China and Iraq, the first deal in Iraq since 2003. And on Sept. 11, The New York Times reported that Iraq had canceled six contracts with western oil companies, including Shell and Exxon. The contracts were no-bid deals, which is significant in that the oil companies were trying to get their already giant hands in the candy jar. However, their failure to make out with a sweet deal does not close them out from bidding in the future.

Powerful nations such as India, the U.S. and China will be looking to do whatever is in the best interest of their nation. This inevitably means getting more. The ongoing tug-o-war may get nasty in the future, but the repercussions will be even larger for the poorer nations of the world. Various African nations that have been forced to hyper-industialize because of 20th century imperialism will once again be left behind. After being forced to run their country with a western model, they will be left without resources to do it, while the superpowers will be hoarding the last drops from the spigot.

This is the opinion of Alex Tandy, a senior philosophy major from Moraga, Calif. Please send comments to [email protected].

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