oil, wasting time
it's back to the future, now", Old Possum remarked, waving his
walking stick at a tram full of Olympic visitors as it rolled passed
us on its way towards Darling Harbour. "I nearly cried when they
started pulling the trams out in the late '50s. Such a wonderful tramway
system we had then. With this world oil shortage we're going to have
to rebuild it, otherwise oil dependence is going to cripple us all."
the problem's really rushed to the surface in the last few weeks. Some
analysts are saying it mightn't be long before it hits $50 a barrel",
I said. "And did you see that Clinton's going to release 30 million
barrels from the US government's emergency reserve to try to bring prices
down before the northern winter. Of course he's got one eye on getting
Al Gore elected, but there's also a real fear that people will freeze
to death if it's a bad winter. They're even handing out $300 million
to subsidise heating oil for the poor".
thirty million barrels won't go far!", Old snorted. "For the
US, that's only about two day's supply! It'll have a psychological effect
for a few hours, the price of oil will go down a bit, but you watch
-- it'll bounce up over $35 a barrel in no time at all. That's the market
economy -- if it's in short supply, the price is going to go up. Simple
isn't it", I said. "And only a few weeks ago, Steve Burrell,
that sleek market fundamentalist who scribbles for the Herald, was confidently
predicting the price of oil would have little effect on the world economy
and in any case it'd stabilise at $25. He obviously hasn't got a clue
watched the tram slipping easily through the Olympic crowds, its traditional
tram bell ding-dinging a warning of its approach. Old Possum, I could
tell, was warming to his topic.
of the politicians and columnists want to confront the grim truth: the
problem isn't OPEC, it's geology", he continued. "Fact is,
the world is burning the the stuff four times faster than it's being
found. The geology of oil is so well understood that there're going
to be no big surprises. The amount of oil the world produces is set
to go into decline any time now. New oilfields are getting very hard
to find, and the ones they're finding are small and very expensive to
leaders and betters have a bad psychological block about the oil crisis.
For years the geologists have been warning them it was going to happen,
but when you're trying to convince the populace the capitalist nirvanah
has finally arrived, you don't want to tell them petrol might have to
think about this: reliance on oil is particularly disastrous for Australia.
Our dollar is plummeting in value right at the time oil is rocketing
up in price. Imagine what that's going to do to the balance of trade
as oil supplies get tighter! And in the oil marketplace we're a small
buyer with no political clout at all."
know what really worries me", I said. "It's that the politicians
will waste the next few years trying to blame the whole thing on the
Arabs. They won't try to explain the facts to people, they'll look for
scapegoats. It'll be easier than confronting the awful truth."