The First and Last Freedom

When reading and writing become a myth, the people will finally know true bliss.

SOPA and PIPA Versus ‘Cyber-libertarianism’

In light of the current legislation now being proposed by Congress, intended to strengthen the laws against copyright infringement and intellectual property thefts, yet destroying key aspects of the nets uniqueness; John Perry Barlow’s ‘Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’ has never seemed so relevant. The declaration was first declared in 1996, and highlighted the perceived originality of the Internet compared to other communication mediums and technologies, stating: “We are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different” (Chadwick, 2006:33). Indeed, the internet is different, and from the reaction of many of the most prominent websites in the world, it would be wise for Congress to remember who and what they are trying to regulate; whilst also remembering that the very ideology that the Internet has manifested into is one which the United States itself was founded upon: Libertarianism.

Libertarianism promotes the idea that individuals can and should interact with one another economically, socially, and politically without intervention from the state; or coercion by any other entity or individual. It is quite easy then to understand why cyber-libertarianism is so popular and held in such high esteem around the Western world. The internet is a new space in which states and power elites cannot wholly dominate for their own gains, an almost equal playing field for all who wish to actively engage – this is what makes the internet special for so many in the West, and this is why a rebellion of many mainstream websites has taken place: Freedom is popular.

On the 18th of January 2012 the largest ever web protest took place in opposition to the PIPA and SOPA bills, heavy hitters such as Wikipedia, Wired, WordPress and Reddit completely censored or blocked access to there sites for a number of hours; whereas Google and the Drudge Report continued with with business, yet advertised their opposition to the legislation and linked to useful information and petitions regarding the bills. The effect was astounding, with huge amounts of awareness raised not just in the U.S but over the whole world. It also convinced many politicians to drop their support for the bills, however, so far it has not been enough, as Wikipedia notes:

“Are SOPA and PIPA dead [after the protest]? Not at all. SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith stated that the House of Representatives will push the bill forward in February. Senate sponsor Patrick Leahy still plans for a PIPA vote on January 24. Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are symptoms of a larger issue. They are misguided solutions to a misunderstood problem. In the U.S. and abroad, legislators and big media are embracing censorship and sacrificing civil liberties in their attacks on free knowledge and an open Internet.”

More fighting must take place if true internet freedom is to be maintained, or, as the line taken from one of Virgil’s poems, now used by the Libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute, goes: “Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it.” 

Update: 

Victory for cyber-libertarianism and anti-censorship! The online protest has had its desired effect — the PIPA bill has been postponed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who statedIn light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT I.P. Act.”  

On top of this the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith is also postponing SOPA, “Until there is wider agreement on a solution.”  

However, the bills are not truly dead in the water yet and as sopastrike.com has announced “If they return we must be ready.”

But for now cyber-libertarianism should celebrate its first victory against such anti-Internet legislation. For surely all those who use the Internet know its true potential is best enabled through each individual, not through states or elites, who will always attempt to manipulate such technologies for their own agendas.  

Bibliography:

Chadwick, Andrew; “Internet Politics: States, Citizens, and New Communication Technologies”, Oxford University Press, 2006.

(Multiple embedded links throughout article.)

Further reading and watching:

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/01/why-weve-censored-wired-com/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57360665-503544/sopa-pipa-what-you-need-to-know/

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0112/71584.html

Mass Hypocrisy

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ACTA Versus ‘Cyber-Libertarianism’ (Round Two)

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is a controversial plurilateral agreement, which seeks to establish stronger international standards on intellectual property rights. Although the agreement covers a vast variety of goods, products, and services; the agreements based around the internet and copyright infringement (Section 5) have once again proven to be the most contentious. Concern about ACTA and its potential impact on the internet has been growing steadily since the draft agreement was first leaked by Wikileaks in 2008. Concerns were fueled by the fact that the agreement was not only edited and amended in secret, but that powerful interests helped mold and determine the treaty.

Unfortunately the campaigns to raise awareness and debate key ACTA proposals haven’t been as successful as the ones that stopped the SOPA and PIPA bills in the U.S. Now time is running out, as most of the developed world has signed up to the agreement; leaving only the EU, Mexico and Switzerland still undecided. The final push to stop the agreement is being aimed at the European Parliament (EP), which has the ability to stop ACTA from being enacted. For now time is on their side, as the debate is scheduled for June. However, considering that the U.S, Japan, and many other trading partners to the EU have already signed the agreement, it looks unlikely that ACTA will be blocked; which would be a devastating blow to cyber-libertarianism worldwide.

However, the protest movements and awareness raising campaigns against ACTA are still growing; they do have time to convince the MEPs to reconsider the agreement. Hope has been renewed by protests breaking out in Poland against the signing of the agreement, and Kader Arif, the EP’s rapporteur for ACTA resigning over the way it has been managed by officials, stating that he had witnessed:

[N]ever-before-seen manoeuvres” and that he “condemn[s] the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, reject of Parliament’s recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly.” 

If other MEPs follow Kader Arif’s lead then maybe a snow-ball rebellion can build up in the EP; possibly enough MEPs will revolt to strike down this draconian trade agreement. Perhaps cyber-libertarianism will remain supreme, perhaps states and politicians will realise freedom is not theirs to take, but rather, an unalienable human right. Perhaps one day the people will wake up…

Further Reading and Watching:

http://in.reuters.com/article/2010/06/09/idINIndia-49179920100609

http://globalvoicesonline.org/2012/01/22/poland-netizens-protest-governments-plan-to-sign-acta-next-week/

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/01/acta-would-usurp-congressional-authority-threatens-numerous-public-interests-a-backroom-special-interest-deal.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8Xg_C2YmG0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQdMtSmkVBs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=spapXznZf4I

Polish members of Sejm house protesting the governments signing of ACTA into law

Web 2.0: Hope, or Hopeless?

Web 2.0 means different things to many different people — as does the Internet itself — however, in the context of this blog, Web 2.0 encompasses the Internet facilities, domains, and the spaces online which allow: information sharing, collaboration, interaction, and inter-operability. The most famous examples of Web 2.0 are social networking sites such as Facebook, blogs (such as this one), and video sharing sites such as YouTube. Yet, the vast access to information, the opportunity to voice dissent, and spread discontent via Web 2.0 has not necessarily had the desired outcomes that some cyber utopians have dreamed of, in my blog I will critically analyse certain key aspects of Web 2.0.

Many would assume that increased access to information would leave greater trust in the political establishment, and the political process in general; one could argue that it would naturally lead to increased participation through the use of online media and blogs, however, studies and academics have shown this to not always be the case (Bimber, 2001; Kaid, 2002). One reason for this is that the Internet facilities of Web 2.0 also tend to reflect the real world biases and inequalities, such as: class, elitism, arrogance, and gender. (Hill and Hughes, 1998). However, the main reason for the lack of direct increase of participation, or trust in politics, is that much of the new information and access is actually being geared towards entertainment purposes, which are difficult to compete with, i.e. video sharing sites, online television, pornography etc. (Althaus and Tewksbury, 2000; Shah, 2001). On top of this, access is by no means an equal playing field, as economic and political elites also have access to such means, which allows them greater ability to: “[S]hape the public agenda, and the ability for these elites to communicate directly with the electorate” (Chadwick & Howard, 2010:235). All of these issues lead to a more pessimistic (or realistic) conclusion, as Zizi Paracharissi states:

“[G]reater access to information and communication channels does not ensure increases in civic engagement… Online political conversations can be easily dominated by elites as offline ones. Access to information does not guarantee that information will be assessed. Similarly, access to information does not render an electorate more active of efficacious” (Chadwick & Howard, 2010:235).

The idea that Web 2.0 would reign in a new era of direct democracy and vast political participation, has been weakened by these studies and multiple others. This is because individuals are more likely to access interest group, non-partisan websites whilst online (Cornfield, 2003); preferring also to access major media outlets and television shows for current affairs information, analysis, reporting, and informing, rather than obtaining and reading internet based news (Kohut, 2003). Web 2.0, when examined with critical analysis, has not been able to fundamentally change the systemic political processes as:

“Availability of information alone is unable to sustain and encourage civic engagement. Those connected enjoy participating in online polls and circulating political jokes and cartoons, but are not drawn to conventional formats of political content online (such as news releases and endorsements)” (Chadwick & Howard, 2010:239).

This means that although Web 2.0 can bring benefits and improvements, in terms of information access and community/civic/public/local organisations and activities; is does not necessarily promote such things or encourage such participation, rather; it facilitates people who already do carry out said activities and gives those organisations a chance to grow. However, ideas such as direct democracy, and mass participation via Web 2.0 are still utopian pipe-dreams — dreams that I doubt the elites will ever share themselves…

Bibliography: 

Althaus, S. L. and Tewksbury, D., ‘Patterns of internet and traditional media use in a networked community’, Political Communication, 17, (21-45), 2000.

Bimber, B., ‘Information and political engagement in America’, Political Research Quarterly, 54, (53-67), 2001.

Chadwick, A. and Howard, N. P., ‘The Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics’, Routledge, 2010.

Cornfield, M. and Rainie, L., ‘The Impact of the Internet on Politics’, Washington DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2003.

Hill, K. A. and Hughes, J. E., ‘Cyberpolitics: Citizen activism in the age of the internet’, New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998.

Kohut, A., ‘Perceptions of partisan bias seen as growing – especially by Democrats’, Washington, DC: Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2003.

Kaid, L. L., ‘Political Advertising and Information Seeking’, Journal of Advertising, 31, (27-35), 2002.

Shah, D., Kwak, N. and Holbert, R., ‘Connecting and disconnecting with civic life’, Political Communication, 18, (141-62), 2001.

What about 2.0?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership: ACTA’s evil twin?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) is similar to ACTA, in that it is a multilateral agreement which has a variety of effects on Intellectual Property (IP) law; some of which could have serious consequences for the Internet. The TPP started life back in 2005, with only Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore entering into the agreement; since then, global economic powers such as the U.S., Japan, and Australia have all entered the negotiations, highlighting the serious and possibly universal consequences of the agreement. Much like ACTA, the TPP was drafted behind closed doors, is supported and influenced by powerful interests, and has been kept out of limelight for sometime, however, with further negotiations coming up shortly, it’s worth analysing just how bad the TPP could be.

According to Canadian Professor of law Micheal Geist, TPP is: “[E]verything [the U.S.] wanted in ACTA but didn’t get.” Of importance is how the agreement will strengthen the U.S. ability to clamp down on others, Professor Geist explains that the TPP agreement will give the U.S. an ability to export its harsh copyright laws on other countries that sign the agreement, and allows the U.S. to amend its own domestic laws concerning certain IP provisions. Additionally, the agreement creates“[L]egal incentives for [Internet] service providers to cooperate with copyright owners in deterring the unauthorised transmission of copyrighted materials.” As well as demanding that Internet service providers deny web access to all who repeatedly infringe against the draconian copyright laws. However, the agreement doesn’t stop there, and according to the senior editor of Ars Techina, Nate Anderson, it will:

“[P]rovide a “making available” right to copyright holders, such that simply offering a file through BitTorrent would be grounds for a lawsuit even if no one downloaded the file… And all countries must set up a process to identify Internet users for any ISP, going beyond US case law.”

Wikipedia also notes that the agreement could impose a legal regime stricter than that of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, and the U.S Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), requiring criminal enforcement even if there might not be a copyright infringement.

Unfortunately, the TPP agreement hasn’t been given the attention that it deserves, with such harsh and sweeping powers to regulate and reform the way IP is managed, and also how ISP will be effected, it should be as well known as the controversial ACTA and PIPA bills in the U.S. The usual organisations and groups have voiced there concerns regarding the TPP agreement, and many Congressmen in the U.S. have also dissented against TPP, especially on how restrictive the agreement is, with regards to the IP of medicines. Else where in the world, legal experts in New Zealand had a conference expressing their concerns over how the agreement would negatively effect Maori culture, and genetically modified products; Japanese commentators are also worried that the agreement would harm Japan’s unique Manga industry, and damage part of their culture.

Overall, the TPP agreement is another way for governments and big business to push through draconian laws to try and regulate and punish those who maximise the Internets full potential. If the culture of cyber-libertarianism is to continue into the future, then such agreements need to be pulled out of the shadows by the public, and scrutinised in every possible way.

Further Reading and Watching:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/11/us_tpp_proposal_leaked/

http://tppdigest.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=291%3Abig-pharma-lobbying-intensifies-as-ustr-signals-ip-proposal-deadline&catid=1%3Alatest-news&Itemid=1

https://occupytppa.wordpress.com/

http://www.dfat.gov.au/fta/tpp/

http://tppwatch.org/what-is-tppa/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzZTr4-4gt4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InaiuTEMC3k

TTP Protest

Is the U.S. Government Obsessed with Social Media?

In the last decade the United States (U.S.) government has become rather aggressive with its eaves dropping and spying activities, especially towards its own citizens. All of this is carried out in the name of ‘War on Terror’. Now the government has decided that online social media is not only a threat to U.S. national security interests abroad, but also a tool used prolifically by both international and domestic terrorists.

In March 2011 it was reported by the Guardian that the Pentagon is developing a piece of software which will:“[S]ecretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.” The article goes on to explain how the software will allow one U.S. serviceman to control up to 10 different ‘people’ online, which can be based all over the world. The online term for these fake personas are “sock puppets”, and they are apparently one aspect of Operation Earnest Voice (OEV), which is a psychological warfare operation used against jihadists as a tool for countering their ideologies and propaganda. The Pentagon has stated that such technology wouldn’t be used to target U.S. citizens or Western social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter; yet it still alarming to see that the U.S. is willing to create hundreds of fake online identities to counter enemy propaganda and spread its own.

Another branch of the U.S. government, using online social media to achieve its goals, is the Department for Homeland Security (DHS). It was discovered, after a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit that was filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), that the DHS monitors social media sites for counter-terrorism and event-awareness activities, and has been doing so since 2006. The sites monitored include: Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, Wikileaks, Drudge Report, and the Huffington Post; they inspect the social media for key words and sentences, hoping to get ahead of the curve when a crisis or terrorist attack hits. However, organisations and people such as EPIC and Representative Jackie Speier have heavily criticised the program, calling it an invasion of privacy and waste of taxpayers money. Even stranger still, is that the DHS looks for certain extremely common  key words and terms in online social media. The more ridiculous ones, including: ‘2600’, ‘Pork’, ‘Snow’, and the real kicker… ‘Social media’… On a more serious note, the DHS’s Media Monitoring Capability (MMC) team do have the power to:“[T]ranismit personal information […] The MMC watch may provide the name, position and any other information […] over the telephone [to the National Operations Center].” It is even more alarming that in 2009 the DHS monitored residents in Standish, Michigan to see how they reacted to the proposal by the government to move Guantanamo Bay detainees to one of their local prisons.

Now even the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve (Fed), announced plans to start monitoring what is said about it. Aimed at the ‘primary social media platforms’ that are: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the Fed’s goals are to: “Continously monitor conversations […] Identify and reach out of key bloggers and influencers [and is requesting all information is provided in real-time].” Basically, the Federal Reserve wants to know–in real time– whether its policies and overall public perception is good, bad, or neutral. Once these institutions monitoring activities are combined with those of the NSA, FBI, CIA and all other intelligence agencies, then it makes one wonder, does online privacy even exist in America any more? Or is it just an illusion? Even if most of the public knew of such invasive surveillance, would they really care? Many willingly post in-depth personal information on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the like, for the whole world to see. Does privacy even matter to the new ‘online’ generation? Unfortunately it seems that privacy for citizens is increasingly just a ‘thing of the past’… All this while evermore the U.S. government guards its activities in a black-hole of bureaucracies and official secrecy due to ‘national security’.

Further Reading and Watching:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/8912714/Apple-iTunes-flaw-allowed-government-spying-for-3-years.html

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/08/2011830103018962738.html

http://www.aclu.org/national-security/fix-fisa-end-warrantless-wiretapping

http://singularityhub.com/2011/05/18/the-government-is-spying-on-you-through-facebook-right-now/

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/all/1

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/petraeus-tv-remote/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzCNY-o5k8M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWnqaHYEVH0

Internet eyes.

Is The World Really Running Out of Fossil Fuels?

Since M. King Hubbert’s Oil Peak Theory emerged onto the Worlds list of things to worry about in 1956 many researchers, scientists, politicians, economists, and governments have all tried to examine and predict the rise and fall of fossil fuel consumption; specifically concerning humanity’s most beloved fuel of all: crude oil.

In the last decade many mainstream news articles and pressure groups have been highlighting and alerting the supposed seriousness of Peak Oil, and how quickly it could bring about an economic and political apocalypse. Firstly, one must establish what is meant by Oil Peak –- with regards to Hubbert’s original theory –- and how if said theory becomes fact it will affect countries and individuals.

According to an Ex-Total S.A leading petroleum engineer of 37 years, active member of  Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, and researcher into Oil Peak Theory Jean H. Laherrère the: “Hubbert peak theory is based on the observation that the amount of oil under the ground in any region is finite, therefore the rate of discovery which initially increases quickly must reach a maximum and decline.”

Most people would agree that fossil fuels, concerning predominately oil, coal, and gas, are indeed finite. However, disagreement arises when attempting to determine how much of the stuff the Earth really holds. My article will evaluate: (a) how many tonnes of fossil fuels do the known reserves contain and (b) how easily can they be extracted, concerning the prices and technologies known today.

Many scientific papers and studies have been published and commented on by the mainstream media in the past decade, with nearly all of them coming to the same conclusions, that is: Oil Peak is near and if we don’t do something now it will be too late. One such study was reported by CNN in early October of 2003. The article references the Swedish University of Uppsala’s research on the issue, stating: “The world’s oil reserves are up to 80 percent less than predicted…Oil production levels will hit their maximum soon after 2010 with gas supplies peaking not long afterwards, the Swedish geologists say… Alekett said that his team had examined data on oil and gas reserves from all over the world and we were ‘facing a very critical situation globally’.”

This article is supported by others in the mainstream, such as Anna Mudeva’s Reuters report in August of 2005, which highlights that humanity: “need[s] to use fossil fuels in a more efficient way to have some more time to develop these alternatives up to a level where the robustness is guaranteed and their price has come down… This could take decades for some technologies.” As well as the Independent’s rather alarming article in June 2007 which again, in a very similar manner to the other reports, states: “scientists led by the London-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre, say that global production of oil is set to peak in the next four years before entering a steepening decline which will have massive consequences for the world economy and the way that we live our lives…Even when you factor in the more difficult to extract heavy oil, deep-sea reserves, polar regions and liquid taken from gas, the peak will come as soon as 2011.”

Now Oil Peak has once again come into the public mindset, as a leaked document from the WikiLeaks trove reveals that Washington was urged to: “take seriously a warning from a senior Saudi government oil executive that the kingdom’s crude oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 300bn barrels – nearly 40%.“ Of course such reports are quite worrying and all seem to point towards the fact that: (a) Oil Peak (as of 2011) is here and (b) there are virtually no ready alternatives to fossil fuels –- specifically crude oil.

In relation to the other fossil fuels the article from the Independent actually highlighted rather well, that the mainstream rates of decline, concerning coal and natural gas extraction, are in fact not as worrying as oil levels, as it states: “There are still an estimated 909 billion tonnes of proven coal reserves worldwide, enough to last at least 155 years… natural gas fields in Siberia, Alaska and the Middle East should last 20 years longer than the world’s oil reserves.” However, what many of the mainstream media outlets fail to comment on is: (a) the different types of oil. I.e. other than crude (b) the other methods of extraction of fossil fuels in general and (c) the amount of ‘unconventional’ fossil fuel levels and extraction abilities of said ‘unconventional’ fossil fuels.

Firstly, I will for the benefit of the argument, accept that: (a) crude oil and crude oil reserves are running out worldwide I.e. Peak Oil has occurred, and (b) that the levels postulated by the scientists in the Independent article, are correct in their estimate of other fossil fuel levels. I.e. 155 years more coal reserves than oil and 20 years more gas reserves than oil. Taken these acceptances, of highly conservative and alarmist rates of fossil fuel decline, I shall now make the case that the majority of the consumed fossil fuels, (oil, coal and gas) are in fact nowhere near levels worth worrying about; especially in terms of over consumption and decline. This is predominately due to the different ways in which the main three fossil fuels of oil, coal and gas can be extracted.

As I previously noted not as many reports and articles comment on the multiple ‘types’ and ‘ways’ of fossil fuel extraction, for if they surely looked into such ‘types’ and ‘ways’ available to governments and businesses alike, then they would have to quite quickly conclude that the world is indeed not running out of fossil fuels — by any stretch of the imagination.

I will immediately eliminate coal as a fossil fuel that is: ‘running out at a rapid rate’ or is anywhere near ‘coal peak’ – mainly because all estimates, even the most severely conservative of proven reserves world-wide, indicate that at current rates of consumption, coal reserves would last for another 119 years. However, natural gas according to many scientists only a few years ago would follow ‘oil peak’ by only 20 years. Fortunately for us, new research and further discoveries have massively increased the Earth’s proven natural gas reserves. The good news came in 2009 and was reported by Daily Telegraph: “proven natural gas reserves around the world have risen to 1.2 trillion barrels of oil equivalent, enough for 60 years supply – and rising fast… This is almost unknown to the public, despite the efforts of Nick Grealy at “No Hot Air” who has been arguing for some time that Britain’s shale reserves could replace declining North Sea output… Rune Bjornson from Norway’s StatoilHydro said exploitable reserves are much greater than supposed just three years ago and may meet global gas needs for generations.”

This research was supported by a recent report by the International Energy Agency on world gas reserves earlier this year, which stated: “As technology has developed for extracting “unconventional gas” from the ground new estimates have been made about the how many years of gas usage remains at present usage levels. It is estimated at 250 years but may be revised upwards.” This was also supported by a report by Helen Knight published in the New Scientist magazine, which stated in June 2010 that: “It is estimated that there are also about 900 trillion cubic meters of “unconventional” gas such as shale gas, of which 180 trillion may be recoverable.” Even more recent estimates by the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s research of world-wide shale gas reserves states that adding the identified shale gas resources to other gas resources increases total world technically recoverable gas resources by over 40 percent to 22,600 trillion cubic feet. All of this evidence suggests that in the cases of coal and natural gas the worldwide proven reserves won’t ‘peak’ any time in the near future. In fact, they will be able to supply ample amounts of much-needed fossil fuels to quench predicted future energy growth for decades to come.

Finally (and most importantly) the argument for oil. Even if we accept that crude oil as of 2011 (or 2010) has already peaked, then there is still no need to panic. Many Oil Peak Theorists forget to mention, or even take note of, the other important ‘type’ of oil, the S that is: Shale. World oil shale deposits and recoverable barrels there of, have exploded in recent years. Interestingly, the planets leading consumer and importer of crude oil, the United States, leads the world in proven oil shale deposit, which is thought to have 1.5–2.6 trillion barrels. As of 2005 world resources of oil shale were put at 411 gigatons — enough to yield 2.8 to 3.3 trillion barrels (520 km3) of shale oil. This means that just the United State’s shale deposits constitute 62% of world resources; together, the United States, Russia and Brazil account for 86% of the world’s resources in terms of shale-oil content. Which means the United States in terms of oil shale, as of 2007 proven crude oil estimates exceed the world’s proven conventional oil reserves. It should be noted that oil shale can be used for producing middle-distillates such as kerosene, jet fuel, and diesel fuel. As well as a fuel for thermal power-plants, burning it (like coal) to drive steam turbines; some of these plants employ the resulting heat for district heating of homes and businesses. It is also worth noting that current oil shale estimates are still very conservative with exploration or analysis of several deposits still outstanding. Not to mention, that Professor Alan R. Carroll of University of Wisconsin–Madison regards the Upper Permian lacustrine oil-shale deposits of northwest China, absent from previous global oil shale assessments, as comparable in size to the U.S. Green River Formation at around 1.5 trillion barrels of recoverable shale oil.

So if we take the (very conservative) estimate of world oil shale deposits and recoverable oil there of. (Around 2.8 trillion barrels, see above sources^) Then combine this with current and predicted world oil consumption of (a rounded up) 31.3 billion barrels of current annual world consumption — 85 million per day. Add this to the International Energy Agency’s predicted future consumption rate of “113 million barrels [per day]“, or 41.25 billion barrels annually. Then combine these to achieve the average (85 million plus 113 million divided by two) over the next 20 years then you get a consumption rate average of: 99 million barrels per day or 36.14 billion barrels annually. Which means that conservative estimates of world oil shale deposits alone, could be recovered and consumed for at least 77.5 years before oil shale was anywhere near running out (2.8 trillion divided by 36.14 billion).

Thankfully, current technology extraction and development of oil shale has progressed swiftly in the last two decades, with many countries looking to further gain from oil shale production. As of 2008, industry uses oil shale in Brazil, China, Estonia and to some extent in Germany, Israel, and Russia. Oil shale serves for oil production in Estonia, Brazil, and China; for power generation in Estonia, China, Israel, and Germany; for cement production in Estonia, Germany, and China; and for use in chemical industries in China, Estonia, and Russia. This is especially true for Estonia, where Oil shale serves as the main fuel for power generation the oil-shale-fired Narva Power Plants accounted for 95% of electrical generation in 2005. (Estonian Energy in Figures 2005. Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications)

This is also not taking account of the data surrounding proven crude oil reserves, in relation to world average yearly consumption. Even if we ignore the CIA’s estimate of 1.392 trillion recoverable barrels of oil and instead accept BP’s conservative 2009 estimate of 1.33 trillion barrels of proven reserves and then add this to the recent WikiLeaks cable, which claims Saudi Arabian oil reserves have been overstated by 300 billion barrels (meaning conservative crude oil reserves could be at 1.03 trillion barrels) and then compare this with current and predicted world oil consumption in recent years of 31.3 billion barrels (See previous paragraph for sources^) of current annual consumption, and accept the estimate of the International Energy Agency that by 2030 oil consumption: “will rise to 113 million barrels [per day]“, (See previous paragraph for source^) meaning the average consumption, over the next 20 years, would be somewhere around 36.14 billion barrels annually (99 million barrels daily) then crude oil would will still last for at least another 28.5 years. (1.03 trillion divided by 36.14 billion) Even when taking into account further unknown growths in oil demand and consumption I.e a large scale war consuming or destroying say 18 billion barrels. It would still be unforeseeable that crude oil would run out before the year 2039.

All of this evidence shows that even if  ‘peak oil’  has already occurred, current fossil fuel extraction technology and fossil fuel reserves –- of unconventional means –- can quite comfortably supply the Worlds demand for many more decades to come. What is needed now is for businesses, governments and international organisations, to highlight and invest in the well known unconventional means of oil, coal, and gas production and extraction –- before reserves become so depleted, that they push the price of fuel and energy generation above tolerable levels, for individuals and governments alike.

Until then, one should sleep easy at night knowing that crude oil alone, even if the most severely conservative estimates are followed and no new reserves are ever discovered, will still comfortably power our world for at least another 28 years and then oil shale there after, will power further energy needs, for at least another 68 years. (2.8 trillion barrels divided by the 2030 estimated annual consumption of 41.25 billion) I hope until that time (around 2107 AD) the ‘Peak Oil Theorists’ will examine fully all the methods, ways, and types of oil extraction and production, before such alarmist and unfounded views are injected into the public domain.

Post Script:

For further research into the Peak Oil debate, I suggest reading up on one of my favourite leading commentators in the field of challenging Oil Peak Theory: Dr.Leonardo Maugeri. Some of his exceedingly interesting articles can be read herehere, and here.