If you want to get some high-flying action going at a party, just bring up the company Halliburton. When some people hear the word "Halliburton" they immediately recall that it's the company where former Vice President Cheney amassed great wealth. Others identify the multinational corporation as a major player in the oil field services industry. In any case, just mention Halliburton and emotions typically fly high. Although it's not the only company involved in the oil industry, in some corners, the word "Halliburton" seems to have become synonymous with the word "evil." The company is seen as signifying all that is wrong with our energy policy, both abroad and at home, as Halliburton leads the charge to exploit shale formations in North America.
Last week Halliburton announced that its net income more than doubled in 2010 due to improved international results and record U.S. revenue as the oil industry jumped on the shale-drilling bandwagon. In fact, North American revenue alone rose more than 83 percent. That's not bad, considering how much the Great Recession has impacted this country, as well as the fact that Halliburton had to settle and pay on bribery charges in Nigeria stemming from the activities of its formerly owned KBR unit.
So while the mere mention of Halliburton may provoke a lot of ranting, we really need to see why it's so successful. The reason is pretty simple: We're just not moving fast enough towards other sources of energy. We are still the country that has 6 percent of the world's population and consumes 25 percent of the world's energy. These are not new facts, and unfortunately, these facts aren't changing. And if we continue to move at our current rate, these facts aren't going to change for some time.
Meanwhile, global events are beginning to change the landscape at a furious rate. The uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan could be the tip of the iceberg in creating problems in the U.S., because this is the highest oil-producing area in the world. In other words, oil prices could literally spike, leaving the U.S. in a very precarious position, especially in light of our fledgling economic recovery.
If this happens, Halliburton and its brethren companies will be in an even stronger position in terms of exploiting natural shale formations in order to drill for natural gas. This will make our energy needs even more beholden to them. Either way, we could be in for a tremendous shock in the short and long term.
Every day our news cycles feed us information that shows us that we need to make changes. The question is, what will it really take for us to make the effort?
Jonathan A. Schein is CEO/ScheinMedia, Publisher of GreenRealEstateDaily.com