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Oil Refinery Attack: Just A Preview

Yesterday’s attack on the Saudi oil refinery at Abqaiq (that processes 2/3 of Saudi oil exports) was a warning shot. The western world is increasingly vulnerable to disruptions at oil chokepoints. Terrorists have the obvious advantage, because to keep things running, we have to stop them every time. To shut us down in a big way, they only need to succeed once.

If the attack succeeded, it might have done us some good. I know that’s a bold statement. I’m not wishing death and destruction or economic hardship on anyone. I wish the whole Al-Qaeda thing would go away. But Americans need to get the message that continued oil consumption is untenable. If not for the issue of terror, for the issue of climate change. If not for climate change, then for pollution. If not for pollution, then because we are at or near the world peak of conventional oil production.

For many reasons, we need to get the message. Had the suicide bombers succeeded, we’d have been facing $80-100 a barrel oil for a couple of years at minimum. (That’s gasoline in the US at $4.00 to $5.00/gallon–much higher elsewhere.) Worldwide demand continues to spiral upward. So such a price spike could have been permanent. And, having succeeded in wreaking havoc, nothing would stop Al-Qaeda from doing it again.

One day this or something like it will happen. So we’d better take our cues from a near-miss. Buy a hybrid. Buy a (soon to be available) plug-in hybrid or electric vehicle. Buy a bicycle. Sign up for green power. Support building of new nuclear plants. Invest in alternate energy companies. Carpool. Check your tire pressure. (5% mileage improvement with proper inflation) Deep-six your SUV. Enjoy the cheap gas while you can. Every gallon you buy indirectly fuels terrorism. Oil imports are a large and growing contributor to the US trade deficit. Everyone needs to do their part.

Make a mental note. While you’re standing there, filling up with gas: commit each time to spend a few minutes mentally re-tracing the route that fuel must have taken to get halfway around the world to your tank. Envision what would happen if that supply were disrupted in any way. Finished with your fill up? Take the price on the pump and double it.

Now: Envision a world where this is no longer necessary. Where we drive on cheap electricity taken from the grid at night. Or home grown cellulosic ethanol. Resolve in your mind to do what you can to bring this about. Lastly, admit the obvious: We cannot continue like this.


Comments (One comment)

adron / February 27th, 2006, 10:18 am / #1

“If the attack succeeded, it might have done us some good. I know that’s a bold statement. I’m not wishing death and destruction or economic hardship on anyone. I wish the whole Al-Qaeda thing would go away. But Americans need to get the message that continued oil consumption is untenable. If not for the issue of terror, for the issue of climate change. If not for climate change, then for pollution. If not for pollution, then because we are at or near the world peak of conventional oil production.”

Well written. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another, and if not another it’s another, and if not another… the listing of negatives could go on for a long long time.

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