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Chapter Five: How the West Plundered the World in its Mad Pursuit of Oil

In my previous chapters, reference was made to the ethical and moral obligation on Scottish and UK governments to protect less developed and less technically aware countries from inflicting damage on their populations by following UK fuel-exploitation policies.

Part of the problem has been the West’s belief that unbelievably powerful multinational companies will act ethically while being essentially the West’s colonial fuel-gathering pioneers.

The capitalist vision of their country enjoying everlasting economic growth based on innovative entrepreneurial practices of global companies infiltrating and reaping the benefits of other countries mineral assets is plainly not sustainable.

Indeed it verges on being better described as morally repugnant and little more than an environmentally disastrous giant Ponzi scheme where established corporations boost their incomes through persuading other countries to increase their income streams by buying the expertise of the companies.

In the economic free market battlefield if there are winners then there must be losers. It is a zero-sum game.   Maximisation of shareholder wealth-driven companies should be brought to heel. And governments which surrender policy decision-making to the corporate sector are anachronistic. Is it coincidence that many countries possessing fabulous reserves of oil and gas have had their governments and leaders undermined, their ability to exploit their wealth thwarted at every turn, economic sanctions imposed on them and indeed, on occasion, their countries bombed and invaded?

Over the past 50 years or so a large proportion of the world’s reserves of oil and gas, created over many millions of years, have been squandered. It is timely to remind ourselves why that has happened.

The aforementioned colonial impact of the multinational oil companies cannot be overstated. Initially the game was all about getting access to the world’s easily accessible reserves and paying as little as possible for them. Getting access to the Middle East’s reserves was relatively easy as all the then-current technical knowledge and drilling equipment were the property of several large oil companies.

These companies would, of course, helpfully design the contracts that would determine how the proceeds of the oil sales would be split between host country and the companies. Any attempt to increase profits for the countries owning the reserves by, say, increasing the oil price or the terms of the contracts was fiercely resisted.

No industry did more to make the US economy globally dominant than its oil corporations. Bargain price oil and gas shipped to the US fuelled its car, engineering, and military industries. Americans thrived on filling monster cars with cheap petrol (gas guzzlers) and establishing themselves as the greediest consumers of oil and gas in the world. In 2016 the top three countries as a percentage of world oil consumption were (1) the US with 20.3 per cent (2) China with 12.8 per cent and (3) India with 4.6 per cent. The total oil consumed was 96,558,000 barrels!

Given the relative population differences between China, India and the US it is easy to see that the US occupies the unenviable position of greediest oil consumer by a considerable margin. If oil consumption with its high CO2 emissions is a primary driver of climate change then with respect to oil’s share of climate change the US should carry the (oil) can for approximately 1/5th of the resultant damage. Incredibly the US under Donald Trump now appears to be a climate change denier and even withdrew from its obligations in the Paris accord.

World GDP is expected to double between now and 2035. Corresponding energy demand might rise by 30 per cent. If fossil fuels retain anything like their current share of the energy mix then climate change mayhem of cataclysmic proportions looms.

What can be done, apart from the addressing the elephant in the room — the necessity to reduce world population rather than see it exponentially increase?

It is unimaginable to think that a better use for oil will not be found rather than burning it by converting it to petroleum. Future generations across the globe have been robbed by the West’s insatiable greed for oil and gas. Future historians will not show the West as the moral caring people it believes itself to be. Is there a better time to stop production and at least conserve what reserves of oil remain? From now on, let’s concentrate our effort into producing energy from renewable sources. In the same way that Scotland has shown ethical and moral leadership in banning fracking they should also ban nuclear power plants.

If an ironic green light is given to the use of nuclear power and every other country decides to follow suit then the stockpiles of nuclear waste will constitute catastrophic accidents waiting to happen. The dire consequences that can emerge from a proliferation of nuclear plants across the globe is close to an Armageddon situation.

Short-term expediency, which itself is questionable, on the part of the UK to allow Chinese development of nuclear facilities is nothing short of a moral and ethical failure by Westminster.

In any case, the true cost of nuclear energy once decommissioning costs are taken into account looks prohibitive. The less opportunities given to countries to consider developing nuclear weapons the better. In that regard, the SNP should continue its onslaught against renewing Trident.

Magic money trees seem to sprout out of the concrete jungle conurbation of London to fund the hosting of Olympic Games, World Cup venues, the refurbishment of the Houses of parliament and building nuclear submarines.

Morally and ethically it reflects badly on the UK that the lack of a magic money tree seems to apply primarily to denying inflation– linked salary increases to low paid public sector workers and to reducing benefits that support the poorest in society.