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Governments Don't Get It – There Is No Future In Oil

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Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith
Sun sets on Oil

The news that BP has made a 'giant' oil find in the Gulf of Mexico will be welcome news for their shareholders and will probably lead to a small short term drop in oil prices which will please consumers. However any benefit is irrelevant while as a planet we are all still drinking from the poisoned chalice that is oil dependency.

The latest find is one of the deepest wells ever sunk by the oil industry. This reinforces what we already know. Oil is a finite resource and as the price continues its inevitable historical climb then more and more previously marginal deposits become economic to extract.

But the Governments of the world are missing the point. There is no future for this planet in the use of fossil fuels to drive our economies. One of the benefits of the oil price spike of last year was to accelerate the search for economical alternatives to fossil fuels as a source of energy. The subsequent price easing has lessoned the need to inject world changing sums of investment into research and development of alternative, cleaner energy sources.

In tough economic times the temptation to curtail investment in research for short term operational gains is easily given into. In many ways as painful as it was for consumers the world over, the oil price spike needed to continue for there to be any serious sustained investment into alternative fuels.

In the decade leading up to the Second World, powers like Britain and the United States were investing in developing new weapons and technologies, but with very little progress compared to the following decade of the 1940's that resulted in the biggest advancements in military technology and capability than at any time in history, in fact at the time, more than the whole of history put together. Why? Because the very survival of their nations was at stake. It is amazing the priority that is suddenly given to research and development when survival is an issue. Money and resources are miraculously conjured up that before were supposedly impossible to spare.

And so it has been with alternative fuels. While private industry and governments are increasing their investment in alternative fuel research, it is miniscule compared to the potential overall resources that could be applied. So like in the Second World War the world's governments need a sufficient incentive to react. Short sharp price hikes don't work, because they are over too quickly. The slow historical increase in the price of oil doesn't work because like 'boiling the frog' it happens too gradually and economies adjust. There is nothing like having an opposing army massing on a nation's border to get it to spring into action and start finding weapons that are better than their enemies.

Yet here we are faced not just with the survival of nations but the very survival of life on our planet. Governments can't seem to grasp the reality of this and instead adopt a short term focus that is big on talk and very short on action.          

So what is going to be the trigger that results in the necessary resources being released to find an alternative to our dependence on oil? If we wait until the oil is running out or the environmental balance of the planet is broken then it is too late.

If we wait until wars are increasingly being fought over oil, water and food, then we are definitely too late. They will signal our being locked into an end game for our planet with no escape. We will have moved well beyond the point of having alternative paths to choose from.

If the global warming predictions are correct then we are already in serious almost irreversible trouble.

Even if the vocal minority of opponents of the theory of global warming are right and the climate trends of recent years are merely natural historical fluctuations it does not hide the fact that either way, our planet is in dire trouble.

Both sides of the global warming debate have become immersed in bitter arguments over detail and data, while in effect 'Rome (Earth) burns' in the background. The real point is that regardless of whether climate change is man made or not, the world cannot survive with its economy driven by fossil fuels as its primary source of energy.

For the first time in history non-communicable diseases such as cancers and heart disease are outstripping infectious diseases as the leading cause of mortality.

While diet, exercise and smoking are major factors it is no coincidence that the vast majority of our planets citizens are now dwelling in cities. Every day they inhale a daily cocktail of fumes that are generated directly and indirectly by the burning of fossil fuels, reaping a harvest of disease and death that because of its slow and long term nature causes less sensation and consequently less reaction from the worlds governments, business and media who are all preoccupied with economic data and less with physical and mental well being.

Often the focus is on profit and loss, cash flows and balance sheets, when most of what makes a business or a Country successful does not appear directly on financial statements and is largely intangible. The imagination to develop ideas, the enthusiasm of its people, the integrity of its management, its relationships with its customers, all intangible things that are as important if not more important than financial data, yet are often ignored.     

Now is not the time to sit pack and leave it to the bigger countries. Small countries like New Zealand can play a part. Just like 25 years ago when we stood out from the pack and took a stand against nuclear ships and weapons in our territory. The world stood up and took notice back then, and it would do it again if we focussed our imagination, scientific research and serious investment on developing alternatives to fossil fuels. Then slogans such as 'Clean, Green New Zealand' and '100% Pure NZ' will mean something real instead of just being marketing vehicles for tourism.


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