Meditations on the costs and benefits of oil
Obviously, the black goop resulting from Carboniferous forests of the ancient past has lifted us from the Industrial Age to one where Technology rules in all its glory. It’s has fueled the American economy, granted us unprecedented personal mobility and conquered the skies and the heavens beyond.
It has given us plastics and everything that means, from disposable cutlery to many of our tools and devices, including the helmets that protect automotive racers.
It helped America to outperform the USSR, ending the Cold War, winning via economic progress rather than military might. Ballistic missiles and MIRV warheads are expensive to maintain and it took a vibrant, dynamic economy to accomplish that.
When the Berlin Wall fell, one Soviet general remarked they would have been lucky if one in ten of their missiles made it out of the silo, and even then had little chance of hitting its target. They could no longer afford to maintain them.
On the other hand, it has given us the Exxon-Valdez, sporadic tanker and oceanic oil well spills, not to mention wars without end. Iran, Iraq and Kuwait are in the top four oil producers of the Middle East. There may have been more reasons involved in our wars in these nations, but oil was certainly part of the equation.
Much of the current political state in the Middle East is the result of the CIA’s replacement of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh for the crime of nationalizing the holdings of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, now known as BP, creators of the biggest oil spill in history.
In his place Mohammad-Rezā Shāh Pahlavi was elevated, because of his friendliness to Western business concerns, notably oil companies. He remained in power until overthrown by the Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In the long view, it’s a toss-up which one was worse.
When America went to the rescue of Kuwait, it was for the freedom of an invaded and occupied people. Did anyone really believe that?
Now we’ve been involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for years. The latter has no oil, but wasn’t Osama Bin Laden radicalized by his perception of how Western oil companies had corrupted the ruling Saudi Arabian family? The connection between the Bush family and Saudi oil is well known.
The so-called Arab Spring has essentially deposed tyrannical rulers in Libya and Egypt, while the verdict still hangs in the balance in Yemen and Syria. Libya is the country with the sixth largest oil reserves, while Egypt is 13th. Yemen and Syria are 14th and 15th respectively. The business of oil has financed and kept autocratic rulers in place in these nations.
Meanwhile the wonderful plastic bags every retailer uses to bag your purchases are discarded and washed out to sea. Now the whole of the Earth’s oceans have a measurable plastic content. It’s not exactly healthy for the ecosystem or other living things.