Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Oil wars 
A key focus for John Kerry's presidency is going to be ENERGY. Yeah, oil. It's not that we're in danger (yet) of running out of the stuff, but consumption is on the rise worldwide. Prices, now at or near their all-time highs, will only get higher still. 2003 the first year EVER when proven oil reserves did not increase. China has emerged as the world's second largest oil consumer and, as the Indian economy also generates a rapidly growing middle class, they too are increasing their energy demands.

The combination of these economic forces and the recent production shortfalls resulting from dicey political conditions in Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, have produced $50/bbl crude, and the outlook is for prices to stay there, and even to increase as demand does. The 2.5 BILLION people in Asia's emerging capitalist states can and will use a hell of a lot more oil than we do - competition for that limited resource is going to be really stiff.

That coming competition, if not addressed now, will almost certainly lead to wars. Big ones, and lots of little ones. Wars over access to oil, access to shipping lanes, access to pipelines, access to ports, access to refining capacity. The art of attracting other countries into regional, political, and economic pacts and alliances will make the Cold War look like a game of pattycake.

Unlike George Bush, who is a child of and is beholden to the awl bidness, John Kerry can strike off into new territory - new industries for alternative energy sources like photovoltaics, fuel cells, windpower, geothermal, and alternatives to gasoline like biodiesel and alcohol. A lot of good research has been done over the last 30 years and, with even a moderate amount of new research money, photovoltaics could become a viable option for many homeowners. A PV cell / battery / controller setup large enough to power a small, energy efficient home can be had today for $15,000-$20,000 - and as PV cell efficiency increases (it's now around 8%) - such systems will become both smaller and more economical. At $50/bbl for oil, those alternative technologies that have been moribund for years because they've been more expensive than oil will come back - again, with a bit of help in research money and tax incentives from the Feds. If we (the USA) show that we can replace our dependence on fossil fuels with renewable, less polluting, AND CHEAPER sources, we'll be back in the world's economic driver's seat.

We can do this - we have the know-how and we now have the incentive - all that's wanting is someone to lead. George Bush ain't gonna do it - it's contrary to his interests. John Kerry can and, for the future of the US and the health of the world, he must.

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