HS 19 Oil

Study Guide Oil 

The future of petroleum fuel/oil

Oil moves the world. It creates powerful countries and can provoke wars or prevent them. The few countries that are in possession of it try to keep control of it to ensure its profits stays where they are - and those who do not have it, try to get a hand on it.

Therefore the countries of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela met in 1960 and founded an influential cartel called the organization of the Petroleum Exporting countries or short OPEC. Since then nine countries have opted in. As of September 2018 the 14 member countries owned 81 percent of the worlds “proven” oil reserves giving OPEC a major influence on global oil prices. It sometimes even rations oil to push the prices. However the biggest producer of oil and gas is not a member of this dominant organisation. The reason for this is that this producer – the United States - does not rely on oil reserves, in difference to the OPEC member states. It owes its spot at the top to the so-called shale revolution. The term shale refers to petroleum that is inside shale rocks and can by obtained by fracturing the rock, a process known as “fracking”. For this topic, the important difference between this technique and conventional oil production is its high per-barrel cost and its effect on the environment.

Due the shale revolution and the discovery of new oil reserves, petroleum still remains the primary fuel, supplying almost 1/3 of the world's energy. And despite the growing movement in favour of clean energy the demand of oil is increasing steadily. The simplified reason to this is that the clean alternatives still can’t compete with the low price of oil.

In a nutshell the world’s global energy use is growing rapidly, oil still remains the number one fuel and if it continues to be so the effects on our planet could be irreversible. Although virtually all countries agree upon the fact that something has to be done (Paris agreement 2016) many are not following through. But this cannot go without saying that some nations such as Nigeria and Venezuela rely on oil revenues for their national economies and face great domestic instability that is intimately related with oil’s ability to finance the state.

Another challenge is that wind and sun are intermittent. Renewables may require vast shared electricity grids spanning boarders to make them more efficient. To stop global warming the world needs a huge collaboration over our shared energy future.

The long-term transition to clean energy will throw up new global challenges and if we fail, wars over scarce resources could be even worse in the 21st century than in the 20th.