Thursday, February 17, 2011


Maui may get more cars, but remains food insecure

by Larry Geller

A Maui News article today describes Pasha Hawaii’s plans for giant vehicle carriers that make the old Hawaii Superferry look like a rowboat. It ends with this zinger, though:

About 98 percent of Maui's imports come by sea.

[Maui News, Pasha sets sights on more ships, 2/17/2010]

Hawaii imports 85-90% of its food, depending on which source you look at.

If true, and these figures cannot be too far off, then Maui is already in an insecure state with regard to food supply. The rest of the Hawaii is no doubt similar.

Suppose democracy breaks out and spreads in Mid-East countries, and suppose they choose not to continue to deplete their perhaps peaked oil supplies for the benefit of a country that has supported their oppression for decades?

Why should they care about our food security when we have destroyed theirs? See, for example, The Secret Reason for the Egypt Protests: U.S. Agricultural Policy (The Atlantic, 2/16/2011):

The uprising in Cairo is about U.S. tax dollars supporting farm programs that wreak havoc on food prices worldwide.

That is, suppose at least some of them turned off the oil spigot? What would Maui do for food?

On the depletion of oil supplies, check out this Guardian article: WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia cannot pump enough oil to keep a lid on prices (2/8/2011):

According to the cables, which date between 2007-09, Husseini said Saudi Arabia might reach an output of 12m barrels a day in 10 years but before then – possibly as early as 2012 – global oil production would have hit its highest point. This crunch point is known as "peak oil".

Husseini said that at that point Aramco would not be able to stop the rise of global oil prices because the Saudi energy industry had overstated its recoverable reserves to spur foreign investment. He argued that Aramco had badly underestimated the time needed to bring new oil on tap.

And then this recent article about challenges facing Exxon-Mobile:

The world’s largest publicly traded energy company can’t find enough oil.

According to The Wall Street Journal, for every 100 barrels of oil that Exxon Mobil has pumped out of the earth in the last decade, it has only replaced 95. This index, known as the reserve replacement rate, is one that analysts scrutinize closely.

Exxon Mobil is not alone, however. The decline in this rate plagues most Western oil-producing companies. Beginning decades ago, accessible oil fields started to tap out, and the new ones that are in the process of being developed have enormous technological challenges such as deep-water exploration.

[The Daily Pickens, Exxon Mobil Struggles to Find Oil, 2/15/2011]

Listen, Maui, to this just in from Shell:

Shell predicts in clear terms what journalist Michael Rupert said in his recent film "Collapse": more shocks to the industry loom ahead, which will lead to increased price volatility, producing rapid inflation and deflation on the consumer level.

And if that phenomena hasn't already begun, they add, it will be in full-boar by the end of this decade.

Interestingly enough, Shell also predicts that "[the] longer the delay in climate policy action, the more likely shocks become."

One such example would be the potential for peak output in Saudi Arabia. If it were a reality and word got out that their fields would be in permanent decline, it could produce extreme price variations and social unrest amid worsening economic conditions. A series of US diplomatic cables from 2007-2009, published by secrets outlet WikiLeaks, revealed that the former head geologist in charge of exploration for the Saudi oil firm Aramco, who retired in 2004, has expressed very serious concerns that this was happening.

[Raw Story, Shell report predicts peak oil now or soon, ponders ‘Depression 2.0′, 2/15/2011]

Is Hawaii paying attention to its vulnerability should oil prices soar or should oil become less available? The rest of the country is not, either. The Guardian warns:

Jeremy Leggett, convenor of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security, said: "We are asleep at the wheel here: choosing to ignore a threat to the global economy that is quite as bad as the credit crunch, quite possibly worse."

We’re asleep in Hawaii as well. We’re considering a wind farm for Lanai instead of a food farm, for example.

It should be accepted by now that agriculture must be revitalized and supported with long term plans and commitments, which will require politicians to challenge their development constituents. We will also need to face the need to speed up installation of alternative energy sources, particularly continuously-available technologies such as ocean wave, ocean thermal, and geothermal.

It’s no longer a question of how to provide alternatives to the electric generators we now depend on, but how to provide alternatives to a lack of affordable fuel for them, for shipping, and for aircraft.

We’re as dependent as a place can be on oil. We already have the highest fuel prices in the country, and we also depend on that black stuff to bring us our food.

In effect, we’re living on borrowed time and imported Twinkies. Let’s get serious about our food and energy dependence before the inevitable oil crunch catches up with us.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


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