Vox Civitatis the Sustainable City News weblog
02/09/2011: "Don't Say I Didn't Tell Ya...."Alas, poor Saudis.
I knew them, Horatio. A country of infinite oil. Well, then again, maybe not. The Saudis have been in the global oil catbird seat for decades, and for decades, they have been able to manage the position. Seen by the world as the kingpin in global oil production as well as the primary member of (and spokesman for) OPEC, the media has long turned to the Saudis for the word on global oil production...and for years, their word was good.
No matter what else might happen to oil production anywhere else on earth, as long as the Saudis smiled and said everything was alright, everything was alright and everyone smiled. But now, after all of these years, we have to ask: Is it really alright, or do the Saudis know more than they dare to say? Their oil fields--their surplus oil production capacity-- have long been used to direct and control the price of oil on the global market. They have been the swing player, and it's a role they've enjoyed for a very long time. But now we have to ask: What if they are done in that role? And what does that mean for the rest of us?
By that, I don't mean they are running out of oil. They don't have to. All they have to do to throw the global market into a tailspin (and the price of oil to the moon, Alice) is admit that they can't make up the difference for anyone else's shortfall. We have, for years, managed to overlook the chaos in Nigeria, Chavez in Venezuela and declining oil production in so many countries that we had, in the past, depended upon, all because we knew the Saudis would be there for us, no matter what. The day the Saudis say they are at maximum oil production (or past it) is the day "peak oil" makes headlines around the world. The Saudis know that, and the Saudis rightfully fear that--as should we all.
After all of these years at the top of the oil heap, the Saudis are now in the unenviable position of being the guys that have to signal the downfall of the oil age. No, it's not their fault. They did the best they could for as long as they could, but everyone in the know knew the truth: We humans on planet earth are using oil infinitely faster than the earth can make it. We must, therefore, reach a point where we want more than we have. And that would a sign of peak oil.
My sympathy to the Saudis for allowing themselves the luxury of being the ones everyone is looking to right now. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, and the public announcement of the arrival of peak oil would rank among the worst headlines possible. And that appears to be exactly what we (and the Saudis) are facing right now.
For the rest of us, good luck to one and all. Read all you can on the subject, and do what you can to be as ready as any of us might be, knowing whatever we do, it might not be enough. Be ready for change.
And keep your bike tires pumped.
See my New Colonist articles on Peak Oil for more: Ghawar is Dying, Peaking Ahead, Sixty Days Next Year, and my interviews on The New Colonist's podcast page. There's also my new book, Peak of the Devil, covering the subject in detail. Many thanks to The Guardian UK for breaking this story on WikiLeaks revelations of Peak Oil in Saudi.