THE BLOG
05/17/2010 12:17 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Our Oil Addiction: Colliding Tragedies and a Missing Pie Slice

While the blame game proceeds in Capitol Hill seeking the cause of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, some voices are adamant on the larger picture: we demand this product to be cheap so that we can waste it. All of us caused this monstrous accident.

However, the problem is so much worse than this visible tragedy.

Few are admitting that the amount of oil from offshore drilling (which could offer up to 15 years of American supply), is swallowed in the shadow of financial uncertainty in producing such oil. The capital risks of exploring and tapping those fields cause great pause to energy companies. Oil companies should be even more hesitant now that deep sea operations have proven to be like space adventures requiring ceaseless dedication and accountability. That sterling standard is not a great match for companies which have been earning billions per quarter after getting what they want from regulators by having their lobbyists literally sleep with them.

While oil companies have great access to government regulators paid with public funds, they do seem to enjoy great privacy concealing the many strategic vulnerabilities of our oil based life.

Fox News recently refused to run an ad by VoteVets.org calling for the passage of a climate and energy bill based on a well known link between oil markets and Iran's invention of sophisticated weaponry against our armed forces. Partly owned by a Saudi interest, Fox dismissed the ad as too "confusing".

The press was also notoriously silent about a small earthquake of news on the oil front that appeared nine days before the platform explosion, which was shared by the Guardian of UK: The U.S. Joint Forces command issued a Joint Operating Environment report warning that surplus oil production capacity could vanish as soon as 2012, leading to serious oil shortages by 2015.

That grand omission might stem from the denial of the Energy Information Administration, which forecasts that the world could be producing millions of more barrels of oil per day within two decades -- if the capital investments get made.

That's a big "if" when such capital would be better spent on technology that could reap renewable, clean energy. Of course we need oil to get off of oil, which may have something to do with the oil lobby's ongoing power to conceal its predicament.

More mischief from oil's privacy: the EIA's optimistic view is based on a nation-by-nation analysis of resources which relied on proprietary data that cannot be released for further scrutiny. Let's use our crap detectors -- what nation doesn't inflate their strategic, competitive advantages in, for example, weapons or oil? Saddam Hussein taught us that lesson, luring us into war to our lasting financial plight.

Another problem with the EIA's sunny optimism is that it's upstaged by its own earlier pessimism, shown in a 2009 graph showing a glaring and widening gap between supply and demand for liquid fuels starting in 2012. If someone offered you a pie slice at Thanksgiving as wide as that oil supply gap, you'd say "Oh no, no, that's too much."

A major part of that missing pie slice shall come in part from the burgeoning demand for oil in China, which produced a 41 percent leap in sales for gas-powered vehicles in just the past year, according to the New York Times.

The blunt truth is we are idiotically dependent on inefficient internal combustion engines (see p.18 of this Argonne study on joules/km for various vehicles). And our waste of energy has brought the world to this moment of declining supplies foreseen by so many insider analysts such as Matthew Simmons, a former investment banker who has written up blistering projections about our coming oil plight.

As world oil prices rise, energy companies can commit capital to more dangerous and energy-intensive modes of extraction, resulting lately in environmental tragedies of biblical proportions. Consider tar sands extraction, in which hundreds of square miles of Canada's boreal forest have been scraped to get up the gooey bitumen that can be turned into crude oil only with the help of huge amounts of natural gas and water for heating. About 5 percent of our fuel in Colorado comes from Alberta's tar sands.

Also energy and water intensive, Congress concocted mandates and incentives for corn ethanol, the making of which sends runoff to the Gulf of Mexico that prompts blooms of algae that rob the water of oxygen, sending marine life fleeing - and this year they will go into oil tainted water.

Our reliance on oil of all types, not just imported, has created many tragedies, two of them now colliding in the Gulf with direct threat to our supply of seafood. The next hit will clobber our larger food supply with price hikes that won't stop.

What's your family's plan for transportation and food production, when the next oil shock comes? It could be sooner than expected. Like starting next year...