Natural Gas, Geopolitics and World Peace:

Toward a Better Future

By Shlomo  Maital

 

  

  Within a very short period of time, the geopolitical map of the world has been radically altered.  Most people haven’t really noticed.

   Here is why.   It’s called “fracking”.

   Suddenly, by inducing tiny fractures in natural gas deposits trapped in rock (through explosions and injection of huge amounts of water), engineers can now unlock massive deposits of natural gas underground.  There are massive environmental issues involved – fracking can pollute groundwater, and even cause small earthquakes.  Hopefully these problems can be overcome.

   But the key point is this:  The world consumes about 2.4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas yearly.  The estimated supply of natural gas, through fracking, is (by country):  U.S. 24.4 (trillion cu. meters), Argentina, 21.9; Europe, 18.1; Australia, 11.2; and China, 36.1.  Total:  111.7 trillion cubic meters. In other words:  50 YEARS  OF SUPPLY, AT CURRENT CONSUMPTION RATES.   If you assume that some of the natural gas will be converted to fuel to run cars and trucks, there is still at least 25 years worth of annual consumption. 

   What this means is the world can liberate itself from the tyranny of Mideast oil.  (And, by the way, help the environment; natural gas burns far more cleanly than petroleum).   America has already seen the light.  America’s Joint Chiefs of Staff head Raymond Odiorno has published a thoughtful essay in Foreign Affairs, in which he documents America’s new geopolitical strategy – shift its military power away from the Mideast (especially carrier task forces) and toward Asia. 

   The reason the decline of Mideast oil is good, is simple.  Vicious tyrannical governments in Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere are kept afloat solely by petrodollars.  Leaders of oil-rich Mideast countries, and those in North Africa too, like Libya, utterly failed to build any semblance of a modern economy, because they did not have to – oil money lubricated their pockets and kept them in power.  Now there will be no choice.  Modernize or be swept away by hungry masses.  This is positive. When Iran joins the 21st C., and builds a real economy (today, Iran cannot even refine its own crude oil, and has to import gasoline), the ayatollahs’ reign will end. 

     My friend, the late economist Julian Simon, loved to point out that the world has never run out of a key natural resource. Long before this happens, something occurs to find a replacement or a new source.  This is true of hydrocarbons as well.  I believe the new sources of natural gas are a positive force for world peace and even for the environment, on balance (even though France and Bulgaria have banned fracking).  And for my own country, Israel, which discovered huge deposits of natural gas offshore, and with even larger deposits awaiting fracking beneath the Negev, a historical wrong has finally been corrected after 2,000 years… Moses’ wrong turn into Canaan, instead of Saudi Arabia, toward oranges, rather than toward oil, finally transforms into a plentiful source of energy.  As the saying goes, the wheels of G-d grind slowly but exceedingly fine…

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