The same argument could reasonably be made for the United States' even more egregious subsequent invasion of Iraq in 2003; the pubic, altruistic reason given was that weapons of mass destruction must be eradicated from this potentially dangerous rogue state. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 surely gave the U.S. more fodder for its defensive justification for invading. Iraq is, perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, an oil-rich nation and curiously, to date, no weapons of mass destruction have ever been located within its borders.
One could argue that this unilateral action by the United States to protect its resource is no different that the colonial imperialistic power games of decades past. Kuniholm goes so far as to call this the "Great Game," and avers it is no different from that played by imperial powers in the past (546).
The preceding figure and facts make clear which states hold the supply and which states house the demand. That the United States must locate alternate sources of energy during this century is an infallible conviction. While not necessarily imminent, the threat of economic collapse ensures the U.S. will aggressively seek such aggressive measures as to prevent near-total wipe-out of its lifestyle. Such is the extent of dependencies that the U.S. economy has on energy. When this energy resource goes, all other sectors will follow as each -- pharmaceuticals, plastics, tires, transportation, roadways, and much more -- is dependent on the energy industry, and in particular on petroleum.
Policy solutions would obviously include finding alternative energy sources. Unfortunately, this presents quite the complex challenge so ingrained is the use of oil in United States' culture, ecology, and economy. Perhaps the so-called Gulf Oil Spill is the stark wake-up call the U.S. needs to precipitate major environmental and ecological change.
The question then becomes how.
There are other natural energy sources extant besides fossil fuels. The difficult challenge for the United States will be weaning itself off oil over the next decade. One option extant is geothermal energy which, as the name implies, is heat from within the Earth converted to energy. Ordinary, already -available oil-drilling technology could be employed to exploit this resource. There are three well-known, high-grade geothermal energy fields in existence: one of which is located in San Francisco. The American field generates enough electricity to power half of the city. However, the U.S. uses 6 million barrels of oil a day, while the American geothermal energy plant produces only 3 million barrels of oil over its lifetime! Consequently, drilling needs to be undertaken to locate many additional geothermal energy fields (Defeyyes Chapter 10).
Another option worth exploring is nuclear energy, though this option leaves many feeling a bit anxious. The facts are, however, that nuclear energy emits zero carbon dioxide emanations and provides 100 years' worth of uranium (Defeyyes 180). The downside, in addition to the distaste for the thought of "nuclear" anything, is that radioactive waste becomes problematic: How to safely dispose of it? A significant investment would be required to solve this conundrum, but for all the billions of dollars floating into the oil industry, it could be done.
Solar and wind power are worth a look, but lack storage capabilities. Water power is attractive for myriad reasons: it is renewable energy that does not pollute the environment, and it can be available on demand, for instance (Defeyyes 182).
The United States would do well to follow the protocol adopted at the 1991 Rio Summit, where it was decided that aggressive action was warranted in efforts to curb energy consumption and promote renewable forms of energy use. The three protocols adopted toward that end were:
• Non-renewable resource use should not exceed the rate of substituted development;
• Use of renewable energy should not exceed natural regeneration; and • Output of such uses should not exceed an assimilative capability (Barta 3).
Diehl and Gleditsch explain that demand-induced scarcity certainly drives world conflict (126). With the United States' population growing exponentially, we can expect to see this environmental conflict continue to accrue unless it's explicitly abated. We also certainly need to see the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico permanently staunched. Diehl and Gleditsch further state that "an important intervening variable between environmental scarcity and civil conflict is inequality" (155). Subsequently, environmental protection requires economic growth, for if there is no growth, someone or some faction (typically the poor) will have to pony up to make up for shortcomings. Industries, such as the oil giants, cannot only comfortably bear this burden, they can be the leaders for change such as developing new or renewable sources for energy. Until this occurs, the Gulf Oil Spill likely will remain largely what it is today: a colossal environmental and political mess spewing catastrophic ecological damage unfettered into eternity.
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