Talk of an oil glut and a potential further price drop seems to be growing. The cost of a barrel of crude now sits at just under $60, only a little more than half what it was at its most recent peak in June 2014. Meanwhile, under a barrel of woes, economies like China’s have slowed and in the process demand for oil has sagged globally. And yet, despite the cancellation of some future plans for exploration and drilling for extreme (and so extremely expensive) forms of fossil fuels, startling numbers of barrels of crude are still pouring onto troubled waters. For this, a thanks should go to the prodigious efforts of “Saudi America” (all that energetic hydraulic fracking, among other things), while the actual Saudis, the original ones, are still pumping away. We could, in other words, have arrived not at “peak oil” but at “peak oil demand” for at least a significant period of time to come. At Bloomberg View, columnist A. Gary Shilling has even suggested that the price of crude could ultimately simply collapse under the weight of all that production and a global economic slowdown, settling in at $10-$20 a barrel (a level last seen in the 1990s).
And here’s the saddest part of this story: no matter what happens, the great game over energy and the resource conflicts and wars that go with it show little sign of slowing down. One thing is guaranteed: no matter how low the price falls, the scramble for sources of oil and the demand for yet more of them won’t stop. Even in this country, as the price of oil has dropped, the push for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring expensive-to-extract and especially carbon-dirty Canadian “tar sands” to market on the U.S. Gulf Coast has only grown more fervent, while the Obama administration has just opened the country’s southern Atlantic coastal waters to future exploration and drilling. In the oil heartlands of the planet, Iraq and Kurdistan typically continue to fight over who will get the (reduced) revenues from the oil fields around the city of Kirkuk to stanch various financial crises. In the meantime, other oil disputes only heat up.
Among them is one that has gotten remarkably little attention even as it has grown more intense and swept up ever more countries. This is the quarter-century-old struggle over natural gas deposits off the coast of Gaza as well as elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean. That never-ending conflict provides a remarkable and grim lens through which to view so many recent aspects of Israeli-Palestinian relations, and long-time TomDispatch regular Michael Schwartz offers a panoramic look at it here for the first time.
By the way, following the news that 2014 set a global heat record, those of us freezing on the East Coast of the U.S. this winter might be surprised to learn that the first month of 2015 proved to be the second hottest January on record. And when you’re on such a record-setting pace, why stop struggling to extract yet more fossil fuels?