The Politics Behind Oil

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Introduction

Since September 11, 2001, America’s foreign policy has been built on the premise that the most important goal is winning the war of terror. Much of this is predicated on the notion that Islamic fundamentalism is what drives international terror. The theory of oil challenges this worldview suggesting that people are in fact facing a conflict of global significance over fast dwindling fossil fuel reserves, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. Thus, religious radicalism acts as a pretext for what is essentially a resource war.

History of Fossil Fuel Exploration and Use

All through history, humanity has always been in search of ways of putting energy to work for them (Science Clarified, 2012). For instance, instead of foraging for food in the wild, they have found ways of growing it. Instead of walking, people drive cars to travel from one place to another. Again, instead of using messengers or postal services, people send messages electronically (Science Clarified, 2012).

Since about 1800 AD, fossil fuels have been the world’s dominant energy source. Prior to the introduction of these fuels, humanity depended on energy delivered and produced by other people, process commonly organized in the form of slavery, and in some cases included animals’ use (Science Clarified, 2012). At times, fires as well as other rudimentary tools were used in enhancing muscle power. The rise of fossil fuels or energy use came about as a result of the ability to store and convert energy to a form that is useful when fuel was required (Science Clarified, 2012).

The oldest source of energy is the sun. Over the years, it has been instrumental in providing heat and light for millions of years. As a matter of fact, it is responsible for sustaining life on the planet Earth (Science Clarified, 2012). In almost all forms of energy, the sun is the starting point. For instance, wind is created by changes in temperature, which are brought about by the sun. Even the plants as well as the trees, gain their nourishment from the sun (Science Clarified, 2012).

Rivers and streams provide energy by the force of their downhill flow, all coming from rain and snow. Rain and snow fall at high elevations following evaporation, which occurs from lakes and oceans from the sun (Science Clarified, 2012). In as much as the sun provides large quantities of energy in a variety of forms, it cannot be controlled by humans. Consequently, humanity has to explore other sources of energy (Science Clarified, 2012). In line with this, humanity discovered ways of generating energy from wood.

Due to the increase in human population over time, there was also an increase in humanity’s dependence on fire. As a result, this led to severe shortages of wood in certain parts of the world (Science Clarified, 2012). For instance, in the 16th century, there was such a big shortage of wood in Britain that the British had to switch to other new sources of fuel. As a result, this led to the advent of the use of coal. Coal, oil, and gas are, therefore, referred to as fossil fuels because they are extracted from fossilized plant and animal materials from deep under the ground (Science Clarified, 2012).

In as much as coal has been used in different parts of the world since the second millennium B.C., its prospective uses had not been explored completely. The moment coal began replacing wood as fuel, a number of inventors found out that coal could be used as a source of energy. This was a period in history that is also known as the Industrial Revolution. This period marked a very big change for many people in the world. Previously, the agricultural society made use of the human muscle power and animals to do work (Science Clarified, 2012).

Following the invention of the coal burning steam engine, this marked the beginning of building bigger, faster and better machines. The machines would be used in providing transport as well as doing the work which was previously done by animals and people (Science Clarified, 2012). As a result, coal continued to be used in large quantities until the twentieth century. After some time, internal combustion engine as well as the automobile was invented, thus leading to the use of oil as well as gas, instead of coal (Science Clarified, 2012).

Over the years, modifications have been done in the efficient use of oil and gas to ensure less pollution. However, the large numbers of automobiles that are being used today have offset the potentially positive impact of the said changes (Science Clarified, 2012). Over the years, oil and gas have come to be used in most parts of the world, especially for manufacturing and production of power (Science Clarified, 2012).

Fossil Fuels

Humans have always sought for ways of generating power from a variety of energy sources. The current needs of power have continued to escalate, even as resources of the planet continue to dwindle. New technologies continue to use electricity, including everything from kitchen appliances to street lights (Science Clarified, 2012). As a result, electricity continues to be part and parcel of human lives, not only in the developed countries, but also in the developing countries. Much of electricity is generated in power plants, which utilizes large quantities of fossil fuels (Science Clarified, 2012).

The creation of fossil fuels is a natural process that involves the earth’s systems. The remains of plants as well as animals that passed away millions of years ago were gradually buried under sediment from the earth and compressed by the weight of the sediments (Science Clarified, 2012). Over a long duration of years, the compressing pressure of the sediments turned the dead animals and plants into oil, coal, and natural gas. Though it took the earth hundreds of millions of years to produce the fuels, humans have severely depleted them over a period of few years (Science Clarified, 2012).

The Peak Oil Theory

Production of oil all over the world is at, or near of its peak (Winter, 2006). This basically means that the planet earth, including Saudi Arabia, is producing less and less oil. Oil is essential for everyone on the earth. Most of the systems, from transportation, heating, electricity, manufacturing, plastics, and agriculture use oil (Winter, 2006). All over the world, oil is very essential. As a result, the society demands increasing amounts of oil on a daily basis, especially the industrialized societies (Winter, 2006).

Peak of the oil need simply refers to the fact that oil resources on the face of the planet are limited and that at some point, less and less oil will be extracted. In this way, it doesn’t matter what amount of exploration has been done (Winter, 2006). At some point, less and less oil will be available for developed countries, thus leading to a peak in the production of oil. Consequently, this would be alarming as the needs of the developed countries are dramatically increasing (Winter, 2006). In many ways, the core message of the Peak Oil observers is that resources are limited. The Middle East has always kept the production of oil from peaking. As a matter of fact, well over 70% of remaining oil reserves are just in a few countries in the Middle East.

They include Iraq, Iran, Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Peak Oil also refers to running out of oil. It doesn’t denote the absence of oil; rather, it indicates that the era of cheap, plentiful oil is at hand (Winter, 2006). It also implies that at some point, though there will be an increase in the demand of oil, the supplies will be on the decrease. The international oil production may not necessarily have peaked, but the fact is that over the past couple of years, production seems to have reduced (Winter, 2006).

Furthermore, there have been no considerable new findings of major oil fields ever since the 1960s. On the other hand, there has been a steady decline in the discovery of smaller fields. In fact, the global consumption of oil is almost six times as much as its production (Winter, 2006).

It is, however, interesting to note that the oil reserve capacity has been on the increase, including the increase that was witnessed in the late 1980s. However, skeptics consider that the expected increase in the reserves took place at a time when OPEC declared that the production of oil will be limited to the percentage of identified reserves (Winter, 2006). This implies that the larger the reserves, the larger the permitted production of oil.

In 2006, the global demand for oil was estimated at approximately 80 million barrels per day, with an anticipation of this increasing by almost 2/3 by 2015. The International Energy Agency estimates that the international demand for oil has been increasing by almost 3 million barrels per day (Winter, 2006). A third of this growth is a result of the high demand from China, which is the second largest importer of oil in the whole world, followed by Japan, with the United States taking the first position (Winter, 2006).

In some Chinese cities, bicycles were banned in favor of automobiles. In line with this, millions of cars are being bought in China, leading to the increased demand for oil. In 2002, figures indicate that the U.S. used well over 7 billion barrels of oil, with more than 50% being imports. Today, countries consume well over one billion barrels of oil every 11 days. In as much as oil companies are raking in profits, they are, however, not doing much to invest in new facilities. In fact, since 1976, the United States has not built a new oil refinery.

Not many people agree that the present supplies of oil can keep up with the expected increase in demand. With the decrease in the supply of oil, the prices will most likely rise, together with the cost of fuel, petroleum based supplies and transportation. The increase in prices, coupled with the decrease in supplies, will most likely lead to a halt in the advancement of many societies.

The Need for Oil

Oil is an essential part of humanity today. This is mainly because the wheels that run the society are fueled by oil (Winter, 2006). Almost all the commercial pesticides are made from petroleum. Most internal combustion engines on earth are powered by petroleum, including the millions of vehicles around the globe. All the tires that run vehicles take approximately six gallons of oil to produce one (Winter, 2006). Almost all forms of transportation, whether vehicles, planes, ships, as well as trains are powered by petroleum or by electricity, which is generated by electricity or natural gas (Winter, 2006).

Petroleum is also used in the production of plastics. Additionally, well over 40% of the world’s electricity is produced by petroleum (Winter, 2006). Every day, every American uses about 3 gallons of petroleum. It is no wonder that in spite of constituting less than 5% of the world population, America uses almost 26% of the world’s oil production every day (Winter, 2006).

The Peak Oil is, therefore, a problem that has no solution. The international society heavily depends on oil and gas, which cannot be created over night (Winter, 2006). Though the advocates of alternative energy believe that there is a solution, which is in form of green energy, the reality is that the complicated systems that run the society are powered by fossil fuels. Consequently, it is not possible to entirely remake the global infrastructure in few years (Winter, 2006).

Peak oil, 9/11, and the War on Terror

The United States relies greatly on foreign oil from sources other than those located in the Middle East. When it invaded Iraq during the Bush administration, it had little to do with the consumption of Iraqi oil. There are, however, many disagreements regarding the real intentions of the United States in the invasion of Iraq (Winter, 2006). Many people consider that invasion of Iraq was executed with the intention of strengthening the economic position of the United States, in light of the peak oil. According to M. King Hubbert, oil production in the United States was to peak in the 1970s, a prediction which eventually came to pass (Ervin, 2008).

The United States might also have invaded Iraq in order to defend the supremacy of the USD as the medium of exchange for global oil markets (Ervin, 2008). It is also said that at one point, Saddam Hussein had begun the process of pricing Iraq’s oil in the Euro, instead of the dollar. No wonder the moment they took over Iraq, the U.S. switched Iraqi oil sales back to dollars (Winter, 2006). In many ways, the control of Iraqi oil reserves must have been a major consideration even as it executed its war on terror (Ervin, 2008).

This supposition seems to carry some weight considering that the basic reasoning of mainstream realist theories of international relations indicate that there is no leadership that can readily spend its vital resources like lives as well as revenue for reasons other than national defense and control. In as much as this premise is not openly advocated by major media houses, the quest for power largely guides the concept of national security (Ervin, 2008). 

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