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article imageOp-Ed: 12 billion barrels of oil — So what?

By Alexander Baron     Oct 19, 2013 in Environment
A massive oil field has been discovered off the coast of Brazil. If they had any sense or decency, they'd leave it where it is.
The recently discovered Libra oil field is said to be one of the largest off-shore deposits ever. According to the BBC, there is an estimated recoverable 12 billion barrels sitting there for the taking. This sounds truly astounding, and doubtless it will lead to a massive rise in the standards of living for many local and not so local people. There is a downside though, and if the politicians gave it any thought they would realise that the long term losses may well outweigh the short to medium term gains. First, let's do some basic mathematics.
Brazil is currently using around 2 million barrels of oil per day. Dividing 12 billion by 2 million gives 6,000 days, which means this field has enough oil to supply Brazil for the next sixteen-and-a-half years — at current consumption levels. For reasons that need no explaining here, we can safely assume the figure of 12 billion barrels is the most optimistic forecast. The Brazilian economy is currently growing at around 2.5 percent, which if maintained will mean that in 10 years it will have grown by just over a quarter, ie 28 percent+, so Brazil will most definitely not have enough oil for the next sixteen-and-a-half years, relying on this one find, indeed growth is likely to accelerate on account of it. We should also bear in mind what the late Professor Albert Bartlett told us about growth, namely that it cannot be sustained. He was likewise of the view that at the most optimistic projection, peak oil will soon be upon us.
Then there are all the environmental hazards. These are unavoidable, all undersea oil wells lead to some spillage; it is only a little over three years since the Deepwater Horizon affair, an environmental disaster of unimaginable proportions. We still don't know the full extent of the damage this has caused to the flora and fauna of not only the Gulf of Mexico but much further afield. What will be the result if we seen another blow out of this nature?
The world is running out of oil, but it is not running out of sunshine! Many in the West, especially Europe, tend to view Brazil as a backward country, primarily in view of the abject poverty that can be found in some areas, but this is another case of the mouse that roared because over the past few years, Brazil has made enormous strides, none more so than in the development of alternative/renewable energy. Its development of wind energy goes back to the 1990s. On the other hand, its use of solar power is virtually non-existent; this is something it should develop pronto because it has enormous capacity for this. Then there is wave power. Scotland is now producing 40 percent of its energy by renewables. Admittedly, Scotland is a small country, but this is what not simply Brazil but the world should be aiming for, that and more radical technologies such as those being pioneered by the next generation of superbrains like Ann Makosinski and Valerie Ding.
The Cachoeira de Paulo Afonso hydro-electric plant in Brazil.
The Cachoeira de Paulo Afonso hydro-electric plant in Brazil.
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This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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