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Jonathan Kim

Jonathan Kim

Posted: June 1, 2010 03:32 PM

ReThink Review: A Crude Awakening -- Why We Spill

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With the failure of the "top kill"/"junk shot" to stop the Gulf oil eruption, an inconceivable truth that has always existed is finally starting to sink in -- regardless of who is in charge, no one has any idea how to stop this thing until relief wells are drilled in August. It's understandable why no one would want or even be able to believe that neither the most powerful nation in world history nor one of the biggest, richest companies in world history would be so powerless to stop a catastrophe that has been happening for over a month right before our eyes (and now streaming live 24 hours a day). As BP and White House spokespeople have (eventually) been careful to tell us, none of the solutions that have been undertaken have ever been tried before at 5,000 feet below sea level. We are in uncharted territory, and when Plan A to deal with a spill this deep is "Don't worry, we don't need a Plan A because there won't be a spill", don't expect plans B-Z to be winners.

While the sickening reality of the unstoppable nature of the spill is taking hold, there are still brimming reservoirs of justified anger. A major cause of this is the baffling question of why BP was allowed to drill this deep in the first place in such an ecologically fragile area without a plan to stop or contain a spill if something went wrong. The easy answer, of course, is that the US government allowed them to, and BP was too greedy and irresponsible to have one.

But another, more disturbing reason why we are chasing oil to deeper, more dangerous depths is addressed in the fascinating, award-winning 2006 documentary, A Crude Awakening. The film focuses on the concept of peak oil -- the point in time when all of the world's significant oil fields have been found and oil extraction and production has reached its peak. When this happens, oil supplies will begin to drop -- maybe precipitously -- even as demand for oil continues to rise, especially from giant new users like China and India. This will cause the price of oil -- the lifeblood of the world economy and historically the most significant engine of growth -- to skyrocket, traumatizing all who rely on it (which is virtually everyone). The theory of peak oil was created in 1956 by M. King Hubbert, a geoscientist working at the Shell research lab who used it to accurately predict that US oil production would peak around 1965-1970, and also predicted that world oil production would peak right around now.

Watch my ReThink Review of A Crude Awakening and my discussion with Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks about peak oil, OPEC's true oil reserves, and why the Gulf spill might be a symptom of approaching peak oil.


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