Just how important these supplies have become is evident to anyone who follows the oil industry’s trade journals or simply regularly checks out the business pages of the Wall Street Journal. Absent from them have been announcements of major discoveries of giant new oil and gas reserves in any parts of the world accessible to familiar drilling techniques and connected to key markets by existing pipelines or trade routes (or located outside active war zones such as Iraq and the Niger Delta region of Nigeria). The announcements are there, but virtually all of them have been of reserves in the Arctic, Siberia, or the very deep waters of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. (…).
Given the potentially soaring costs involved in recovering these last tough-oil reserves, it’s no wonder that Canadian oil sands, also called tar sands, are the other big “play” in the oil business these days. Not oil as conventionally understood, the oil sands are a mixture of rock, sand, and bitumen (a very heavy, dense form of petroleum) that must be extracted from the ground using mining, rather than oil-drilling, techniques. They must also be extensively processed before being converted into a usable liquid fuel. Only because the big energy firms have themselves become convinced that we are running out of conventional oil of an easily accessible sort have they been tripping over each other in the race to buy up leases to mine bitumen in the Athabasca region of northern Alberta.
The mining of oil sands and their conversion into useful liquids is a costly and difficult process, and so the urge to do so tells us a great deal about our particular state of energy dependency. Deposits near the surface can be strip-mined, but those deeper underground can only be exploited by pumping in steam to separate the bitumen from the sand and then pumping the bitumen to the surface — a process that consumes vast amounts of water and energy in the form of natural gas (to heat that water into steam). Much of the water used to produce steam is collected at the site and used over again, but some is returned to the local water supply in northern Alberta, causing environmentalists to worry about the risk of large-scale contamination.
The clearing of enormous tracts of virgin forest to allow strip-mining and the consumption of valuable natural gas to extract the bitumen are other sources of concern. Nevertheless, such is the need of our civilization for petroleum products that Canadian oil sands are expected to generate 4.2 million barrels of fuel per day in 2030 — three times the amount being produced today — even as they devastate huge parts of Alberta, consume staggering amounts of natural gas, cause potentially extensive pollution, and sabotage Canada’s efforts to curb its greenhouse-gas emissions.
North of Alberta lies another source of Xtreme energy: Arctic oil and gas. Once largely neglected because of the difficulty of simply surviving, no less producing energy, in the region, the Arctic is now the site of a major “oil rush” as global warming makes it easier for energy firms to operate in northern latitudes. Norway’s state-owned energy company, StatoilHydro, is now running the world’s first natural gas facility above the Arctic Circle, and companies from around the world are making plans to develop oil and gas fields in the Artic territories of Canada, Greenland (administered by Denmark), Russia, and the United States, where offshore drilling in northern Alaskan waters may soon be the order of the day. (…).
So let’s be blunt: we are not (yet) entering the much-heralded Age of Renewables. That bright day will undoubtedly arrive eventually, but not until we have moved much closer to the middle of this century and potentially staggering amounts of damage has been done to this planet in a fevered search for older forms of energy.
In the meantime, the Era of Xtreme Energy will be characterized by an ever deepening reliance on the least accessible, least desirable sources of oil, coal, and natural gas. This period will surely involve an intense struggle over the environmental consequences of reliance on such unappealing sources of energy. In this way, Big Oil and Big Coal — the major energy firms — may grow even larger, while the relatively moderate fuel and energy prices of the present moment will be on the rise, especially given the high cost of extracting oil, gas, and coal from less accessible and more challenging locations.
One other thing is, unfortunately, guaranteed: the Era of Xtreme Energy will also involve intense geopolitical struggle as major energy consumers and producers like the United States, China, the European Union, Russia, India, and Japan vie with one another for control of the remaining supplies. Russia and Norway, for example, are already sparring over their maritime boundary in the Barents Sea, a promising source of natural gas in the far north, while China and Japan have tussled over a similar boundary dispute in the East China Sea, the site of another large gas field. All of the Arctic nations — Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States — have laid claim to large, sometimes overlapping, slices of the Arctic Ocean, generating fresh boundary disputes in these energy-rich areas.
None of these disputes has yet resulted in violent conflict, but warships and planes have been deployed on some occasions and the potential exists for future escalation as tensions rise and the perceived value of these assets grows. And while we’re at it, don’t forget today’s energy hotspots like Nigeria, the Middle East, and the Caspian Basin. In the Xtreme era to come, they are no less likely to generate conflicts of every sort over the ever more precious supplies of more easily accessible energy.
For most of us, life in the Era of Xtreme Energy will not be easy. Energy prices will rise, environmental perils will multiply, ever more carbon dioxide will pour into the atmosphere, and the risk of conflict will grow. We possess just two options for shortening this difficult era and mitigating its impact. They are both perfectly obvious — which, unfortunately, makes them no easier to bring about: drastically speed up the development of renewable sources of energy and greatly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by reorganizing our lives and our civilization so that we might consume less of them in everything we do.
That may sound easy enough, but tell that to governments around the world. Tell that to Big Energy. Hope for it, work for it, but in the meantime, keep your seatbelts buckled. This roller-coaster ride is about to begin” (Fettdruck von mir)
Tja, Michael T. Klare ist einer der besten Kenner dieser Materie und hat unter anderem auch mehrere Bücher zur Erdöl-, Energie- und Rohstoff-Problematik verfasst.
Sein wohl bekanntestes Buch, das auch dem von Michael T. Klare mitproduzierten Film “Blood and Oil” den Titel verliehen hat, heisst:
- Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2004; paperback, Owl Books, 2005).
Ich habe dieses Buch seinerzeit mit grossem Gewinn gelesen und mir natürlich auch den gleichnamigen Film angesehen.
Und ich habe seinerzeit auch einen Blogartikel zur Ölproblematik im Zusammenhang mit der Außenpolitik der Vereinigten Staaten mit dem Titel “Michael T. Klares `Blood and Oil´ (2008) und die Vereinigten Staaten heute” veröffentlicht.
Aber alle Bücher von Michael T. Klare beweisen eine große Kennerschaft des Autors mit der Rohstoff, Öl- und Energieproblematik auf unserem Planeten und nicht zuletzt mit der US-Aussenpolitik.
Insofern kann ich an dieser Stelle auch noch einen “Lesetipp” aussprechen und empfehle meinen Bloglesern hiermit die Lektüre der Bücher von Michael T. Klare.
Im übrigen will ich diesen Blogartikel “musikalisch” beenden.
Ich bin in den frühen achtziger Jahren zum jungen Mann herangereift. Eine meiner damaligen Lieblingsbands waren die “Dead Kennedys“.
Die 1982 erschienene LP “Plastic Surgery Disasters” war eine der besten LPs, die von dieser amerikanische Punk-Band produziert wurde. Der letzte, sarkastische Song auf dieser LP heisst “Moon over Marin“.
The crowded future stings my eyes
I still find time to exercise
In a uniform with two white stripes
Unlock my section of the sand
It’s fenced off to the waters edge
I clamp a gasmask on my head
On my beach at night
Bathe in my moonlight
Another tanker’s hit the rocks
Abandoned to spill out its guts
The sand is laced with sticky glops
O’ Shimmering moonlight sheen upon
The waves and water clogged with oil
White gases steam up from the soil
On my beach at night
Bathe in my moonlight
I squish dead fish between my toes
Try not to step on any bones
I turn around and I go home
I slip back through my basement door
Switch off all that I own below
Dive in my scalding wooden tub
My own beach at night
Bathe in my moonlight
There will always be a moon over Marin.