Sunday, April 20, 2008
Addict's Last Gasp
Environmentalists may not be planning concretely for living in a world where the North Pole icecap is completely melted, but oil explorers certainly are. Foreign Affairs magazine had a deeply disturbing article by Scott Borgerson in its March/April issue, warning the U.S. that if it didn't ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty, it risked losing oil concessions to Russia, Canada, and the Scandinavian countries -- concessions located directly under what is now the polar ice cap.
We have to give credit to Borgerson for believing in global warming and indicating that an entirely melted ice cap would represent grave consequences (a completely-inundated Florida peninsula, for example). But he is sanguine and maybe very realistic in saying that the oil deposits under the North Pole are likely as large as the remaining recoverable resources in Saudi Arabia. This means that oil companies will want to drill off the north coasts of Alaska, Canada, Russia, and Greenland, and that ships will begin regularly using an ice-free Northwest Passage to transport that oil.
Since oil has gotten us into this melting mess to begin with, its over-use should serve as a warning to transition quickly to renewables. Taking advantage of an ice-cap melt by seeking to pull still more oil from the ground seems equivalent to a heroin addict telling himself that one last binge before seeking treatment won't hurt anyone. And given how modern culture uses its resources and how modern oil companies (and nations) behave, Borgerson's scenario seems like the most likely one in our energy future. How scary.