The End of the Oil Age: Here's a Fact Known to the Bush Administration, but Hidden from the Rest of Us: The Rate of Global Oil Production Is about to Peak. (Cover Story)

By Heinberg, Richard | Earth Island Journal, Autumn 2003 | Go to article overview

The End of the Oil Age: Here's a Fact Known to the Bush Administration, but Hidden from the Rest of Us: The Rate of Global Oil Production Is about to Peak. (Cover Story)


Heinberg, Richard, Earth Island Journal


The atrocities of September 11, 2001 so dominated world news, politics, military affairs, and the economy that popular discussion soon divided all of recent history into two categories: "pre-9/11" and "post-9/11." For most Americans, the events were not only horrifying, but entirely unexpected.

The Bush administration's response to the 9/11 attacks was to bomb Afghanistan, remove the Taliban regime from power, and install a compliant interim client government. A few commentators pointed out that Afghanistan was located near the strategically significant oil and gas reserves of the Caspian Sea, speculating that the war might be an effort to enforce the building of a gas pipeline through Afghanistan to warm-water ports in Pakistan. Others, including some oil-industry insiders, disputed the idea that the war was essentially about oil or natural gas, pointing out that Afghanistan wasn't essential to the domination of energy resources in the region, and that the proposed pipeline was of minor economic consequence to the US.

But if not for oil, the US would have little interest in the Middle East. If not for US involvement in Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden might never have felt compelled to destroy symbols of American economic and military power.

The Bush administration quickly proclaimed that the Afghanistan campaign was only the beginning of its "war on terrorism," and officials floated lists of other potential targets, numbering from three to nearly 50 nations. Critics of the Bush policy claimed that the administration had, in effect, declared war on much of the rest of the world. Most of the listed nations possessed important oil resources while many--including Iran and Iraq, both high on the lists--had little or no discernible relationship with bin Laden or Al Qaeda. Iraq, of course, has since been invaded, and the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein cast out. With "terrorism" as its ostensible but elusive enemy, the Bush administration appeared to be embarking on a plan to use its military might to gain footholds in strategic regions around the globe, and perhaps to seize full and direct control of the world's petroleum resources.

On its face, this was a strategy that made little sense, as it risked destabilizing the entire Middle East. However, it was more understandable when viewed in light of information known by the administration, but obscure to the vast majority of the world's population: the rate of the global production of crude oil was about to peak.

The ground giving way

In nearly every year since 1859, the total amount of oil extracted from the world's underground reserves has grown--from a few thousand barrels a year to 65 million barrels per day by the end of the 20th century, an increase averaging about two percent yearly. Demand has grown just as dramatically, sometimes lagging behind the erratically expanding supply. The great oil crises of the 1970s were politically based; there was no actual physical shortage of oil.

In the latter part of the year 2000, the world price of oil rose dramatically: from $10 per barrel in February 1999 to $35 per barrel by September 2000. Meanwhile, a wave of mergers swept the industry. Exxon and Mobil combined into ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company. Chevron merged with Texaco, Conoco merged with Phillips, BP purchased Amoco-Arco. Small and medium-sized companies--such as Tosco, Valero, and Ultramar Diamond Shamrock Corporation--also joined in the mania for mergers, buyouts, and downsizing. US oil-company mergers, acquisitions, and divestments totaled $82 billion in 1998 and over $50 billion in 1999.

The oil industry appeared to be in a mode of consolidation, not one of expansion. As Goldman Sachs put it in an August 1999 report, "The oil companies are not going to keep rigs employed to drill dry holes. They know it but are unable ... to admit it. The great merger mania is ... a scaling down of a dying industry in recognition that 90 percent of global conventional oil has already been found. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The End of the Oil Age: Here's a Fact Known to the Bush Administration, but Hidden from the Rest of Us: The Rate of Global Oil Production Is about to Peak. (Cover Story)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.