Here’s a question you’ll never hear from an oil company executive: When is too much not enough?
And if the boss did ask that question, it would be a reference to profits, not supply. No matter how bleak the global economy may appear to be, it seems to rain dollars on the oil industry.
There is a logical reason for that. The world runs on oil, fossil fuels that are hard to get to, tedious to extract, and requiring an exhaustive refining process to make crude oil usable.
The International Energy Agency predicted last year there would be an oil shortage within a few years, possibly as early as two years from today. “Shortage” in oil-industry parlance means higher prices by the barrel, which translates to higher gasoline prices at the pump.
We’ve seen this movie before. There was an oil crisis in the early 1970s that nearly crippled commerce, but triggered an exploration/development outburst that resulted in an oil glut — and lower prices — a few years later.
The U.S. economy is currently humming along, and this nation does not need another global oil crisis. Volatile political situations in the Middle East aren’t helping matters.
All of the above puts a spotlight on the Trump administration’s proposed strategy, announced last week, to do away with environmental protections on thousands of square miles of California’s desert. The idea is to end existing protections to make way for energy development.
Such warnings must be taken seriously, based on the Trump administration’s dramatic reduction of protected land in the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase/Escalante National Monuments. The stated purpose of those regulatory eviscerations was to give more drilling and mining rights to energy companies.
An Interior Department announcement explained the plan to open up more land for energy projects, which includes the traditional fossil-fuels development, plus “solar, wind and other renewables. …”
Land conservationists are skeptical about the renewables part of the government’s statement, in large part because President Trump has been a vocal supporter of fossil fuels, giving his backing to a dying coal industry while at the same time approving an import tax on solar panels.
That doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement for renewable energy source development, but you never really know with Trump, whose opinion seems to pivot more frequently than a basketball player in the center position.
Whatever plan the administration comes up with, it seems destined to collide with California requirements that half of the state’s electric power must be produced from renewable sources by 2030. The state is already well on its way to meeting such a goal.
The other factor to keep in mind is that the vast Southern California desert targeted in this latest deregulation scheme is one of the largest intact ecosystems in the United States, home to a wide variety of creatures and rare plants.
Of the land under consideration, 11 million acres are public, and the Trump plan calls for turning 388,000 acres over to renewable energy companies, mostly solar and wind. That leaves a lot of square miles open to oil and mining operations.
The world jumps from one oil crisis to the next with almost predictable frequency, a cycle that could be permanently interrupted if our leaders embraced renewable energy as the primary source of powering up our lives.
Oil is a finite resource, and it will someday run out, or be so scarce that prices will be prohibitive. We’ll have to switch to renewables at some point. Why not just get started on that process now? And in our desert.