Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sweet crude

The engineers say there are at least 115 billion barrels of oil in Iraq. There could be more, maybe twice as much, and most of it is light and sweet. What a contrast to the sulphur heavy oils for which the Chinese are scrabbling about to power the current great leap (see Trucks Power China’s Economy, at a Suffocating Cost).

In The Black Box – Inside Iraq’s oil machine, Luke Mitchell writes:
Drivers seldom think about how engines work, just as they seldom think about where they get their power. The foot goes down and the car goes forward. Easy. Indeed, discussion the source of our power has become more taboo than discussing the source of our meat, likely for similar reasons. We say that oil is a commodity. That it could be from anywhere. That it is more appropriately understood as a number on a screen, as an idea. We have allowed ourselves to believe that Iraq is not a nation-sized infrastructure with intricate workings – indeed with many leaky pipes – but a kind of philospher’s stone, as if through our engineering prowess we had found a way to defy the laws of physics as easily as we defy the laws of war, as if we really could flatten the world with a wish or melt all that is solid into the air. This is obviously not true, and it is dangerous fantasy. The mechanism may become increasingly complex, indeed the accelerating system may blur into invisibility, but every system must be understood before it can be controlled.
Mitchell's piece is high on my list of recommendations to anyone for December reading.

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