Monday, August 04, 2008

A Thought on Energy

A few years ago my in-laws gave me some stock as a gift. I don't mean stock as in chicken or veal, which would have been delicious but not long-lasting. I mean stock as in shares in a company -- ExxonMobil to be precise. Now, I've done some serious thinking about how I feel about owning stock in this particular company given the Valdez oil spill, the current state of oil consumption, and all that. And I must admit, even as a share holder, I was happy when Exxon was recently penalized for that egregious mishap, and I've been unhappy about the company's skyrocketing earnings (I'm clearly not a typical shareholder).

I'd like to say that I decided to keep my shares in order to make change from within, but that would be a joke since I own about 15 shares or so. Obviously my vote would have no impact whatsoever on the direction of the company. I have actually kept the shares because I know virtually nothing about the stock market and I don't have the first idea how to go about selling/trading/buying/whatever and I don't really have an interest in learning. Not a good excuse, I know, but the sad truth.

In any case...a few times a year I get a copy of The Lamp in the mail. The Lamp is Exxon's quarterly magazine about how great ExxonMobil is and propaganda about what great things they are doing in the world. I rarely read it and am pretty likely to toss it in the recycle bin as soon as I get it out of the mailbox. For some reason, however, I decided to take a look at this issue. I mean, I am a shareholder, so I should educate myself on what this company does.

So, this morning I am skimming over the glossy pages full of innocuous photos of environmental destruction and a phrase jumps out at me: "About one quarter of the world's recoverable oil has been used to date . . ." Wow! So let's say we've been drilling oil for roughly 100 years (I don't know if that is true or not, but it seems logical); at the current rate of oil consumption I would imagine that we will run out of oil in about 200 years, potentially less.

Now, 200 years seems like a long time, but really it isn't given the history of human life on earth. While I understand that there are new and potentially renewable energy resources being developed, the information from ExxonMobil makes it sound like they are planning new technology to recover the remaining three quarters of the world's oil:

Much of the remainder is found in harsh environments, deep water or highly complex rock formations. New technologies will help us find, retrieve, deliver and use these supplies safely and in an environmentally responsible manner. That is why we're investing about 80 billion euro over the next five years in new energy development and technologies.
This is pretty darn disturbing. What would these oil executives think if someone came and bulldozed a quarter of their house and then said, "We're looking at ways to bulldoze the rest, but in more responsible way."? Yeah...I don't think they would like that either.

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