Conflicted: Pondering the Hidden Impact of Oil

It is not an obscure fact that large amounts of the world’s oil comes from the Middle East. What isn’t necessarily well-known is what happens with the money we spend on it when it reaches their source country. Today we look at the oil supply chain, and learn where our money is really going.

Before we get into how the money is spent, let’s look at OPEC. Around 65% of OPEC oil reserves are found in the Middle East, featuring nations such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq and Qatar.

That list contains some other familiar names, too; Saudia Arabia was the home country of the deadliest terrorists America has ever seen. Iraq is known for its former leader Saddam Hussein. Both of these countries also have demonstrable ties to organisations such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. We know that ISIS earns around $50million per month from smuggled oil, but where else do they get their funding?

According to RT, ISIS received funding from 40 different countries as of 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that some of these countries are G20 members. While no countries have been named, it is clear that there is a conflict of interest within G20’s membership.

The CATO Institute reported in 2001 that Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and China are major sponsors of state-funded terrorism. Of course, this is very old data now. Fast-forward to 2017, and Saudi Arabia is still bankrolling terrorism, with the Islamic State as the main beneficiary, according to this report concerning Donald Trump’s recent brown-nosing with Saudi King Salman. Although in fairness, it probably isn’t going be that noticeable since Trump’s nose is already a burnt orange…

Anyway, that’s enough contemplating the colour of the President’s nose.

While there is little evidence that Saudi Arabia funds ISIS, the country has funded the establishment of Mosques throughout the region which promote extremist teachings. More directly, Qatar and Kuwait are both known to at least tolerate donations to ISIS by some of her wealthier citizens, implying that the Gulf countries may even be complicit in the atrocities of the Islamic State.

What does all of this have to do with sustainable energy or transport?

Well, here’s the thing. Most of our oil comes from areas of serious geopolitical turmoil; therefore the environmental impact of using oil products cannot be worked out accurately using even a well-to-wheel analysis. The military industrial complex must be considered also. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, around 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Project Censored, meanwhile, has written a pretty scathing report on the environmental damage done by the United States military. The report cites the use of nuclear weapons as a major cause if this damage.

A few years ago, Time published the article A Question for the Obama Administration, which asked the question “Has the U.S. wasted $8trillion defending the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf?” Which seems like a fair question. But at $8trillion, what does that imply was involved?

It seems that money was spent by the United States Military on soldiers, weapons, and fuel. What do weapons do? They destroy things. Sometimes permanently. So petrol carries an inherent cost in blood, and the enormous amount of toxic emissions produced by weapons of mass-destruction produced by the likes of Northrop-Grumman and Boeing. But notice how you hear almost nothing of “green” weaponry? Yeah, that’s an oxymoron.

F-16 Falcon fighter jet. Source: Pexels.com

As this report by MAHB points out, two sides of an armed conflict won’t stop fighting because there is an endangered flower growing in between them. And since many of the wars currently raging either revolve around oil, or are bankrolled by it, huge amounts of military resources are dedicated to defending the black sludge. A simple solution to the issue? Stop using oil. If all western countries stopped using oil, it would cease to be a viable product. This is where electric vehicles come in. Lithium can be extracted almost anywhere on earth with minimal environmental impact – although Nickel, Cobalt, and Managanese are a different story. The progession of battery technology is onto this, with replacements coming up that have a significantly lower impact on the environment.

At least they don’t fund terrorists in the mean time…