Transcript of radio commentary that aired in January 2004 on KUNM public radio 89.9 fm in Albuquerque. Link to audio at end of page.
By Arjun Makhijani
Too much cheap oil is a principal factor in the world’s energy and security problems. Oil in the Persian Gulf costs less than two dollars a barrel get out of the ground. The present price of oil is about 30 dollars a barrel. The present proven reserves in the Persian Gulf are therefore a treasure trove of twenty trillion – yes, twenty trillion – dollars of royalties and profits. The additional potential reserves of oil in Iraq alone that have not been explored or developed may yield profits over time of about 3 trillion dollars. Saudi Arabia is an even bigger prize.
Cheap oil in the Persian Gulf led multinational corporations and imperialists, starting with the British in Iran, then in Iraq, to go there in droves. Cheap oil and vast profits are still driving imperialism, war, and global warming.
The British wanted to control Persian Gulf oil resources first of all because they had converted their Navy from coal to oil in World War I. The Navy was essential to Britain maintaining its empire; Britain had plenty of coal, but no oil. It turned out that Persian Gulf oil was not only plentiful; it was cheap.
That oil has extracted a heavy environmental and security price, from global warming to the dead and maimed soldiers who have fought in the Middle Eastern sands for nearly a century – soldiers from India, soldiers from Britain, soldiers from the United States, and soldiers from the region itself. There has been more than one nuclear weapons crisis associated with Middle Eastern oil, including one in 1958 when the western client king of Iraq was overthrown in a coup. Panicking about running out oil is giving a propaganda boost to nuclear power advocates and even advocates of the use of plutonium in nuclear reactors.
In environmental and security terms, oil has not been cheap; it has been very, very costly. But we have found no effective way to constrain its use to reflect those costs. Using up the proven reserves of oil alone, to say nothing of the undiscovered and undeveloped reserves, would increase carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere by nearly 30 percent. That would aggravate the climate change disaster that is already playing out.
We have reached the end of the rope environmentally long before oil can become depleted enough to become costly. In the next commentary, I will discuss what we can do about it.
For more information on oil, climate change and energy policy, see the website of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, www.ieer.org.This is Arjun Makhijani.
Listen to this commentary (Part 2)