It’s often the case that news channels like BBC News 24 run the more revealing stories in the wee hours of the morning, for reasons we don’t even need Chomsky to help us divine. I thought I’d caught one of these little outbreaks of reality last night when the guy dishing out the business news, of all things, started a bit with the unholy truth: "With OPEC protecting its members’ short-term interests, what about when the oil runs out?" Admitting to the finitude of our civilisation’s black lifeblood is a rarity in mass media; in news focused on economic stories, it seems tantamount to blasphemy. Or, more accurately, revealing a basic part of the world that has hitherto been psychotically blanked out.
But never fear! This wasn’t some party-pooping blasphemer trying to point out that the last orders bell at the World’s End is about to toll. The story was actually looking at what the (currently) oil-rich Middle East might do to keep it’s good ol’ economic growth festering along, once the oil’s run out. Thus, we were treated to an inside glimpse into the sleek Dubai Internet City, a booming industry hub that’s capitalising on the fact that non-western tech markets aren’t suffering from the after-effects of the dot-com bubble bursting. Did you know that some Arabian mobile phone markets are only at around 10% penetration? This rise in consumer demand, presumably together with ample local skills and investment from foreign corporations, surely points to a thriving Middle East, even when its supplies of oil run dry.
Except… What the fuck will power these technologies?
Somewhere in the background, I’m sure, is the casual assumption that by that time we’ll have completely replaced our dependence on oil as an energy source with something else. It’s scary, though, how casual this assumption is; how restricted our collective awareness of the uniqueness of oil, an irreplaceable planetary store of accumulated solar energy, is; how blithely we’re entrusting our species’ future to technologies which don’t exist yet and show no sign of existing in the near future…
We think: "Yes! Shiny new things!" We fail to see that, to keep more than a couple of billion people going (and we’re at six billion and counting), we need that archaic, finite black stuff from deep beneath the earth.