Oil makes you stupid. . . news at 11

I knew that there were a lot of chemicals that when ingested could make you stupid.  Drugs, sure.  Lead and mercury, definitely.  But apparently even thinking about oil makes people stupid.  Consider the following:

For weeks, republicans have been pushing the idea that either a) the Cubans are drilling in Cuban waters off the coast of Florida; or b) that the Chinese are drilling for oil in Cuban waters off the coast of Florida.  The only problem of course is that this is demonstrably false.

More recently, republicans have started talking up the idea that off shore drilling is much safer than it used to be, and that during hurricanes Rita and Katrina, there were no oil spills.  Except, um, that’s not really true either.

And then yesterday, Bush lifted the executive coastal drilling ban put in place by his father.  According to the NY Times, he said:

“With this action, the executive branch’s restrictions on this exploration have been cleared away,” he said Monday. “This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress.”

And, yeah, in case you were wondering, this is also not true:

  1. Oil companies already have drilling rights and leases on large amounts of land that they are not currently drilling under.  Allowing them to drill off shore does not mean that they necessarily will
  2. Development of the drilling sites is 10 years away.  So the soonest the oil would have an effect on supply is 2018.
  3. The amount of oil that we are talking about is relatively small.  While there are a lot of estimates about the totals, the key is the daily amount.  Putting this into perspective, the world uses about 74 million barrels a day of oil (about 84 million barrels of oil plus oil equivalents).  The US uses a quarter of that – around 21 million barrels per day.  At it’s peak, most estimates I’ve seen are that off shore drilling plus drilling in the ANWR would generate about 250,000 barrels per day – a mere drop in the bucket.  If you consider the amount the US and the world are projected to use by 2018 (assuming unrestricted supply), you find that all of that drilling is estimated to reduce the price of oil by a few dollars per barrel.
  4. Finally, over the next 20 to 40 years, the US is (or more to the point, should be) committed to using less oil.  The current G8 targets are to cut CO2 emissions by 50% over the next 40 years.  That seems to imply that we need to be using much less oil than we are now – starting very soon.  Far be it from me to suggest that the selection of CO2 targets was disingenuous, so taking these folks at their word, we should skip the drilling and start working on the alternatives.

I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised that discussing oil brings out the stupid.  It’s a very touchy subject in the US.  I came across one good reason for this in Kevin Phillips’s two recent books: “American Theocracy” and “Bad Money.”  Phillips notes that in the same way that knowledge and use of coal was the key to the British empire and knowledge and use of wind was the key to the Dutch empire before that,  the key to US power is the knowledge and use of oil.  So any discussion of using less oil or not having enough oil, strikes directly at the heart of US power.

However, oil is a finite resource.  If the US wants to retain its power in the second half of the 21st century, we need learn to use other, renewable sources of energy, and the continued focus on maintaining cheap oil supplies are not going to help.

1 Comment

  1. Jag said,

    July 16, 2008 @ 6:58 am

    I’ve come to the conclusion that modern media is making people stupid by assuming they don’t think.

    As an example, the other night I was watching a special on the History channel called ‘Ancient Ink’ where some guy went around the world visiting tattoo artists who use techniques that are more or less ancient. Some of the comments were real gems, such as (paraphrased):

    “Everywhere I traveled people were practicing ancient tattooing techniques” (to which I responded ‘Because those are the only places you went’)

    “He’s using living flesh as a canvas” (“Yes, its a tattoo!”)

    If people are constantly given comments like that that assume they’re stupid, they’re going to be lazy and stop trying to think and become stupid.

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