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More war for oil!

My recent discussion of Saudi Arabia put me in mind of another of the battle cries of the anti-war left: "No war for oil! No blood for oil!"

It's got all the makings of a great slogan. All the words are one syllable. It's catchy, it's easy to chant in unison, and it captures a certain moral superiority.

The only problem is, that it's wrong. Wrong and stupid.

Oil is quite possibly the most valuable substance on the face of the earth. It is literally the keystone of modern civilization. And it has been a cause or, at least a major factor, in many, many wars.

Hell, in both theatres of World War II, oil was key. Hitler desperately needed the oil fields of Romania to keep his war machine (in fact, his whole empire) going. And when he lost access to that, along with northern Africa, Nazi scientists launched a desperate quest for a substitute for crude oil and its numerous by-products -- a quest that ended in failure, and consequently defeat for the Nazis.

In the Pacific, it was no different. Japan is an island nation with virtually no natural resources of its own. They have to import virtually everything.

It is that lack that was a large motivating factor in Japan's drive towards expanding its empire in World War II. And it's one of the great under-reported tales of World War II -- how our submarines practically annihilated Japan's merchant fleet, literally starving the Empire of the precious resources she needed to continue her war effort -- not the least of which was oil. By the end of the war, a good chunk of Japan's surviving navy -- the pride of the Empire, and before the war arguably one of the most powerful fleets in the world (certainly the most powerful in the Pacific) -- was stuck in port, unable to venture out and confront the US. And all because they had no fuel.

Just what is it about crude oil that makes it so valuable? There are two reasons that this layman knows about.

1) It is an incredibly efficient source of energy. In its numerous derivative forms, it provides fuel for nearly every form of transportation. It provides heat and electricity for billions. People have been calling for years for some substitute for oil, but nothing has ever come close to it for sheer efficiency.

2) It is incredbly versatile. Take a look at what sorts of things derive from "petrochemicals." For one: plastics.

Nearly everything made from plastic has a petroleum base, or did originally. I'm looking around my bedroom, and nearly everything I see has some plastic elements. My computer, monitor, TV, cable box, DVD, stereo, cable box, shelving, chair, telephone, alarm clock -- I probably have the equivalent of 1.5 dead dinosaurs just in my apartment.

And let's not forget synthetic fabrics. Nylon, polyester, spandex, lycra, vinyl -- all are derived from petroleum.

And we mustn't forget all the gay-sex jokes that would lose all meaning without Vaseline-brand petroleum jelly.

In fact, it amazes me that with all the amazing things we can do with petroleum, the most common use is we BURN it. We convert it into toxic chemicals, using a process that leaves no usable, recyclable byproducts whatsoever. My god, we must be insane.

Petroleum, as I said, is the keystone of modern civilization. Without the ready, affordable access to oil we enjoy now, every single aspect of modern life would come screeching to a halt, and we'd be back to the early 1800's -- or earlier. Kiss goodbye to every single modern trapping of civilization, right down to indoor plumbing (PVC pipe, anyone?), mass communications, and modern medicine. Watch the average lifespan take a HUGE hit, the death rate to skyrocket, the modern economy to dissolve, and (I might be a bit melodramatic here) quite possibly the utter collapse of civilization.

And it'd be a one-way trip. Our climb out of that state was almost entirely built on oil and other fossil fuels. Speaking strictly for myself, my ongoing survival of certain medical conditions is based entirely on modern civilization. Take that away, I'm most likely dead in a week or two. And I'm hardly unique.

We desperately -- desperately -- need a replacement for petroleum. We've experimented with other sources to replace its many uses -- the soy bean, alternate forms of energy such as solar, wind, and nuclear, even working on developing a "synthetic" crude that doesn't take millions of years of underground burial to create. And it's gotten pretty much nowhere.

And always looming over any great discovery is the knowledge that it would take decades to transform our civilization away from petroleum to another source -- and knowing just how well such moves would be greeted by those who depend on their supplies of petroleum for their continued prosperity. The instant it's publicly announced that we will start replacing petroleum with Substance X is the day that the oil producers will jack the prices through the roof, hoping to score every single penny they can before their oil reserves become little more than useless, sticky, smelly pits of goo.

No war for oil? Sure, that's a workable option -- for lone whackos like the Unabomber and Eric Rudolph, among other survivalist nuts and "back to nature" kooks.

Me, I think that our current civilization has been a tremendous boon for humanity, and it's worth fighting for. I think the best answer to the anti-war left I've seen is the simple "no oil for pacifists."


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference More war for oil!:

» Dangerous Dan linked with Oil Prices - Good Out of Bad

» Banana Oil! linked with Link-o-rama

Comments (15)

Being wrong and stupid has ... (Below threshold)

Being wrong and stupid has never stopped the Luny Left. They seem to pride themselves in being wrong and stupid.

People on both sides are to... (Below threshold)

People on both sides are totally dependant on oil. I bet if you cut it off the chant would be, from both sides, BLOOD FOR OIL - TREASURE FOR OIL

I know the thought of not being able to get in my car and carry out my daily business would motivate me to spill some blood for oil. Be honest now, wouldn't you?

The instant it's publicl... (Below threshold)
sell higher:

The instant it's publicly announced that we will start replacing petroleum with Substance X is the day that the oil producers will jack the prices through the roof,

I think you have this backwards, as your logic goes against simple economics. If there was a threat to the oil co's profits and their product, through competition or mandate of substance X, the prices would come DOWN. It would be simple supply and demand. Demand would go down, supply would be going up, prices would fall. This would then put pricing pressure on substance X.

Also, I do don't agree that we desperately need a replacement for petroleum. As you have stated, it is the most effiecient, portable, abundant source of fuel. Even at today's prices, oil is the best thing going. If that were to change, then a free market based economy would find profit motive to develop an energy source that can compete. So far, nothing can.

oh yeah, and my SUV proudly sports said slogan "No Oil For Pacifists" :-)


before their oil reserve... (Below threshold)

before their oil reserves become little more than useless, sticky, smelly pits of goo.

Here's a company trying to do that right now. Basically, they run the dead-dinosaurs-and-other-assorted stuff, plus heat, and reduce the time required from milennia to hours.

Trash to oil. Way cool. And our landfills as feedstock!

As a point of fact, Nazi Ge... (Below threshold)

As a point of fact, Nazi Germany didn't start looking for sythentic replacements for oil after they lost the Ploesti fields. They had started producing sythetics long before the first shots were fired in 1939. In fact, they knew they'd lose most of their imports as soon a a war broke out. Being able to sythesize it--along with rubber and a few other commodities--was a prerequisite for going to war.

The first reference that comes to mind is John Cornwall's Hitler's Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil's Pact.

RE: joe's post (August 11, ... (Below threshold)

RE: joe's post (August 11, 2005 12:13 PM)

Interesting link you found, joe. Right now they are limited to animal and vegetable fat from poultry farms and taking the residual "long" alkyl chains and reassembling them into oil distillates of some quality. I guess this would be the cream of their crop for energy efficiency. Clearly they still have considerable development to do and we can only hope that they become successful and innovative enough to indeed reprocess much more of our human-derived waste.

The cynic in me questions their energy efficiency claims, but maybe they are accurate. I'm sure investors of the enterprise will insist that experts in thermodynamics and petrochemistry confirm their entire series of processes. Still, I'd just prefer we quit burning so much of the prime crude and develop alternative energies (non-petroleum) first. It just makes so much more sense for the long term.

Nicely done Jay, VERY well ... (Below threshold)

Nicely done Jay, VERY well stated!


Oil. $66 a barrel, at the m... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Oil. $66 a barrel, at the moment.

Liberals: Can we just take Iraq's oil already, please? This is horse****... paying $3 a gallon based on SPECULATION.

This company has been aroun... (Below threshold)

This company has been around for awhile:

Gentlemen, the problem is n... (Below threshold)

Gentlemen, the problem is not oil. The problem is refineries and boutique formulations. Each locality has specific requirements for gasoline formulation, and these change sometimes 2 to 4 times each year. Gasoline is not a single entity, but an often changing mix of different distillates.

Come up with three or four different mixes of gasoline. Replace 100 year old equipment. build new distillation plants and gasoline will become plentiful. Once the supply can keep up with increased demand, prices will drop.

frankR:Nice idea. ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:


Nice idea. Good luck getting those refinery equipment changes through the environmental lobbyists.

I would guess all of my ind... (Below threshold)
OC Chuck:

I would guess all of my indoor plumbing is copper - I think PVC pipe is only used for my lawn sprinklers.

Also on the price of oil, the oil companies would first try to kill new large alternate technologies, then they would try to own them. Assuming this new technology is environmentally friendlier than oil, burnable oil products then eventually go the way of freon (banned and super expensive).

All other points, spot on.

I can see the flames headin... (Below threshold)

I can see the flames heading my way, but here goes...

I think the liquid fuel you are looking for is already here. Its called Ethanol and sold around the Midwest as E85 (85% Ethanol/15% Gas). I have been running on it for 2 months in my FFV Ford Taurus.

ethanol is an alcohol.... (Below threshold)

ethanol is an alcohol.


for power production, we need to take the liberals' heros France's example and use nuclear power

some 80% of France's energy is from nuclear power.

Nuclear power is even more efficient than hydrocarbon-based fuels, tons more powerful and definitely a safe alternative (you think not safe you say? when was the most recent nuclear power incident in America? When was the most recent PETROLEUM power incidient in America?)

If you want extremely safe nuclear power, have the plant engineers trained with the United States Navy. They have the best safety record in the world (what record?)!

I work in the oil explorati... (Below threshold)

I work in the oil exploration industry, so I'd like to add some thoughts. First of all, oil will not "run out" in our lifetime, or our children's lifetime for that matter. Because Jay Tea correctly states that oil is the foundation of the global industrial economy and much of the materials it produces, it is an issue prone to be made more complex by economics. For example, the Europeans tax the hell out of gasoline not only because they need the revenue, but because much fewer people need to drive. Driving is a relative luxury for those that can afford it, so the beaurocrats can get away with it. One of my friends in Amsterdam has already spent 3000 euro in the process of getting her license! Secondly, the Alberta tar sands and Utah's oil shale deposits have more hydrocarbons than Saudi Arabia and Iran. Besides, the Saudis have been pumping so fast and furious that some real concerns are mounting, particularly with the Ghawar field. The first entry on a Yahoo search for "Ghawar oil" was this: http://home.entouch.net/dmd/ghawar.htm
Although that is only an example from the top one one quick and dirty search, the point seems to be that things aren't all that rosy for that so-easy-to-extract middle east oil.
Under the radar of the MSM, billions are pouring into research to develop these tar sands and shales. One idea I recently read about in an industry journal suggested that one nuclear power plant, as well as efficient extraction methods develped over the last 5 years, would reduce the costs of tapping the tar sands to the point that it would compete with crude. Don't even get me started on how much oil is still in the ground, waiting for technology to release it in an economical manner.






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