Tag Archives: The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes

A Few Thoughts About Our Need For Oil

A Few Thoughts About Our Need For Oil – Prompted By The Big Rich By Bryan Burrough, And the Oil Rig Disaster in the Gulf

A few comments about oil…  First, my leanings.  I think we ought to get off of oil – as soon as we can.  I prefer some kind of clean, renewable replacement.  No, I do not know what it will be.

But, I was re-visiting The Big Rich:  The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes this past week, and was reminded of the role of Texas oil in World War II.  The Axis Powers (the other guys) used a total of 276 million gallons of oil in all of World War II.  Texas alone provided more than 500 million barrels to the Allies – more than 100 million barrels from H. L. Hunt alone.

Here are some lines from the book:

When the war was finally won, American oil was among the heroes.  The Allies, it was said, “floated to victory on a sea of oil.”
As Axis leaders acknowledged, they couldn’t compete with the Allies’ supply of aviation fuel and gasoline.  “This is a war of engines and octanes,” Joseph Stalin said in a toast to Winston Churchill in Moscow.  “I drink to the American auto indusrtry and the American oil industry.”

Now, here’s my big observation.  For all of World War II, the entire amount of oil used was less than 1 billion barrels of oil.  For all of World War II!  On both sides!  Today, the entire planet uses 85 million barrels of oil every day.  Every 11 days or so, we use as much oil as was used in the entire Second World War.  That is why we look for oil everywhere we can find it – under ground, under oceans – we need it all.  And we will need it all until we find an alternative.  Which we need to find – fast!

When the Exxon Valdez went down, the planet earth used 66 millions barrels of oil a day.  21 years later – today – we are using 85 millions barrels a day – every day.  And every teenager in America, and now every teenager in China, and India, and… dreams of having his or her own car.  And those cars will need fuel.  As Tom Friedman put it in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, the problem is not how much oil America uses.  The problem is that there are now “too many Americans.”

So many people are becoming “Americans”  (“Economic growth has become the prerogative of most people on the planet”)

As the rest of the world catches up to us, there will be more big cities needing more electricity and more cars and more oil and more…more.

It really is breathtaking to realize that we use as much oil every 11 days as was used in the entire Second World War.  And our 85 million barrels a day today will grow to 110 million barrels of oil in the blink of an eye.  I was 39 years old when the Exxon Valdez went down.  We’ve increased oil usage by 19 million barrels a day since that happened.  By the time my son is my age, we will have far surpassed the 110 million barrels a day figure.  And why is that figure important?  There are plenty of experts who say that 110 million barrels a day is it – the top – the most we can get out of the ground and ocean and use.  In other words, when we hit 111 million barrels a day, need exceeds capacity.  (And let’s say that the capacity can increase some more.  This much we know – the day will come when need does exceed capacity).

And if you know any history at all, when that happens – when need exceeds capacity —  with any needed resource, you’ve got real trouble.