A New Energy Third World in North America?  

Posted by Big Gav in

Michael Klare has a new article in TomDispatch about fossil fuel politics in North America - A New Energy Third World in North America?.

The “curse” of oil wealth is a well-known phenomenon in Third World petro-states where millions of lives are wasted in poverty and the environment is ravaged, while tiny elites rake in the energy dollars and corruption rules the land. Recently, North America has been repeatedly hailed as the planet’s twenty-first-century “new Saudi Arabia” for “tough energy” -- deep-sea oil, Canadian tar sands, and fracked oil and natural gas. But here’s a question no one considers: Will the oil curse become as familiar on this continent in the wake of a new American energy rush as it is in Africa and elsewhere? Will North America, that is, become not just the next boom continent for energy bonanzas, but a new energy Third World?

Once upon a time, the giant U.S. oil companies -- Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, and Texaco -- got their start in North America, launching an oil boom that lasted a century and made the U.S. the planet’s dominant energy producer. But most of those companies have long since turned elsewhere for new sources of oil.

Eager to escape ever-stronger environmental restrictions and dying oil fields at home, the energy giants were naturally drawn to the economically and environmentally wide-open producing areas of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America -- the Third World -- where oil deposits were plentiful, governments compliant, and environmental regulations few or nonexistent.

Here, then, is the energy surprise of the twenty-first century: with operating conditions growing increasingly difficult in the global South, the major firms are now flocking back to North America. To exploit previously neglected reserves on this continent, however, Big Oil will have to overcome a host of regulatory and environmental obstacles. It will, in other words, have to use its version of deep-pocket persuasion to convert the United States into the functional equivalent of a Third World petro-state.

Knowledgeable observers are already noting the first telltale signs of the oil industry’s “Third-Worldification” of the United States. Wilderness areas from which the oil companies were once barred are being opened to energy exploitation and other restraints on invasive drilling operations are being dismantled. Expectations are that, in the wake of the 2012 election season, environmental regulations will be rolled back even further and other protected areas made available for development. In the process, as has so often been the case with Third World petro-states, the rights and wellbeing of local citizens will be trampled underfoot.


Bob Wallace   says 6:24 AM

The only reason we're cooking oil out of sandy sludge and going into very deep water to get oil is because the easy to get, good quality stuff is gone. We're investing more and more energy into each gallon of oil we extract.

That will go on only as long as a less expensive alternative does not enter the market. Give people a cheaper way to drive and oil extraction will start to die.

An EV using $0.08/kWh electricity costs $0.028/mile to 'fuel'.

To get that sort of 'per mile' price with a gasmobile you'd need a 50MPG car burning $1.40/gallon gas.

Get EV range up and cost down and we'll soon quit making oil messes.

Bob Wallace   says 6:27 AM

Let me share some quotes from Fred Smith, CEO of Federal Express...

"I think in three or four years you will have a battery vehicle with a range that's probably double what it has today — a couple of hundred miles versus a hundred miles — and it'll probably be 25 percent to 40 percent cheaper than [it] currently is."

Smith says he believes that six years from now, electric vehicles will be in wide commercial use, transporting everything from FedEx packages to plumbers and pizza.

"An all-electric pickup and delivery van will operate at a 75 percent less per-mile cost than an internal combustion engine variant," he says. "Now, I didn't say 7 1/2 percent — [I said] 75 percent. These are big numbers."


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