Spiked-online and the Hubbert curve


Posted to www.marxmail.org on June 4, 2004


Last November, Paul Flewers had the following to say about spiked-online.


"Re Spiked and their new pals Hill and Knowlton. As a former supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party, I'm hardly surprised at this. They'll go with anybody, so it seems, these days. The question is: Who's listening to them? An interesting exercise to while away idle hours is to take some names from the Spiked web-site, do a Google search, and find for what corporations and think-tanks they've been working. We're talking about Big Oil here, that sort of thing."


I should explain the reference to Hill and Knowlton. This is a PR firm that was responsible for creating the campaign that led to Gulf War 1. Remember the business about Iraqi soldiers plucking Kuwaiti babies from their incubators and dumping them on the cold floor to die? That lie was cooked up by Hill and Knowlton. If you go to www.spiked-online.com and clink "events", you'll discover no less than 3 soirees co-sponsored by Hill and Knowlton.


Although there are fewer and fewer radicals who have connections with this crew, they do seem to maintain some credibility--largely through the efforts of James Heartfield, an erstwhile ubiquitous figure on the Internet who still writes Marxish sounding tracts. For example, a young Barnard professor named Bashir Abu-Manneh has a polemic against Hardt and Negri in the latest MR that finds these words by Heartfield worth quoting: “The real meaning of the ‘new social movements’ is a move away from the idea of an agent of social transformation altogether. The novel forms of organization are a break with the idea of collective agency.”


Unfortunately, Abu-Manneh, with whom I had a discussion with on this citation, seems unaware that in the world of James Heartfield "social transformation" entails the liberal use of DDT, a right to smoke cigarettes in restaurants, etc. There was some progress, however. In the original version of the article, there were also favorable references to Frank Furedi, Hardt's guru, that are now nowhere to be found. I imagine that after I pointed these words written by Furedi in a U. of Kent faculty newsletter--"I am feeling depressed. The violence in the Middle East dominates the news. The media have dropped the sex education debate"--he must have had second thoughts.


All this is background, especially Paul Flewer's discovery of spiked-online connections to big oil companies, to an article that appears on spiked-online today:


Inflaming the oil crisis by Joe Kaplinsky


Are we running out of oil? Terrorism in Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, and ongoing instability in Iraq have put oil security back in the headlines. Prices have risen to over $40 a barrel and the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is under pressure to increase quotas. Many fear that a catastrophe in the Middle East could cut off oil supplies.


Worries about supplies have been slowly building for some time; recent events have brought them to a head. But to the extent that real problems exist, they are less the result of oil scarcity or instability in the Middle East than of more general fears within the West.


In the USA high petrol prices are a talking point of the election, where the subtext is that intervention is Iraq created the problem. But some argue that what makes the apparent oil shortage really scary is an underlying problem of oil depletion. Economist Paul Krugman argues that, 'the disastrous occupation [of Iraq] is only part of the reason oil is getting more expensive; the other, which will last even if America somehow finds a way out of the quagmire, is the intensifying competition for a limited world oil supply' (1).


Fears about running out of oil have become widespread in America. A slew of books have recently put forward the imminent oil depletion argument: Hubbert's Peak by Kenneth Deffeyes (2001), The Party's Over by Richard Heinberg (2003), and Out of Gas by David Goodstein and The End of Oil by Paul Roberts, both published this year (2).


Like earlier concerns about oil depletion, the current panic has little basis in the geology of oil. The argument that we are about to run out of oil has been around for as long as oil has been produced. But the depletion argument becomes popular at different times for different reasons. The last time oil depletion became a major concern was during the OPEC boycott of 1973/4, and carried on through the recession of the early 1980s. From the mid-1980s, concerns about global warming took over - and instead of worrying that we had too little oil many fretted that we had too much. Burning all that oil would disrupt the climate, they argued, by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.


Today we have a synthesis of these two arguments. We apparently have both too little oil and too much. The most pessimistic forecasters argue that, not only is industrial civilisation about to collapse as it runs out of oil, but it will be tipped over the edge by global warming as a consequence of past energy use.


Full: http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/0000000CA562.htm


Leave it to spiked-online to not only downplay the urgency of oil depletion, but to defend global warming skepticism all in the same breath. Somebody, I can't remember whom, tried to link the Hubbert curve with some kind of oil company conspiracy to drive up the price of oil. The spiked-online article, in my opinion, is much more in line with the industry's thinking.