THE BLOG

OPEC May Achieve What the Environmental Movement Is Unable to Achieve

09/01/2015 22:02 GMT | Updated 11/03/2015 09:59 GMT

How do we shut down Keystone?

How do we stop fracking?

How do we stop deep-water drilling in the Arctic, the Caribbean and everywhere else?

How do we end the ecological disaster of the Canadian tar sands?

How do we stop the power of Big Oil?

The answer is that we can't. We don't have the money, the political power or the military might.

The environmental movement has only ideology and without money and power, ideology is not very effective.

OPEC (The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) does have power. They also have the money and they are now doing what the entire international environmental movement simply cannot do.

Big Oil are not concerned about environmentalists. Nor are they afraid of government. Hell they buy politicians like the rest of us buy coffee in the morning.

There is only one thing Big Oil is afraid of, and that is falling oil prices.

At $115 a barrel Big Oil was immensely rich, spoiled, arrogant and smug.

And what is the price of a barrel of oil today?

It just went below $50 a barrel this week and continues to fall, and anything under $70 per barrel makes Canadian tar sands extraction more costly than it's worth.

In short OPEC can bring Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper's dirty tar sands empire to its knees, and that is exactly what they are doing.

Why is OPEC doing this?

First of all we need only look at who the OPEC members are.

OPEC was founded in 1960 by the five nations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. They were joined by Qatar (1961), Indonesia (1962), Libya (1962), the United Arab Emirates (1967), Algeria (1969), Nigeria (1971), Ecuador (1973), Gabon (1975) and Angola (2007).

The United States, China, Canada, Australia, Russia nor any European nation are members.

Therefore it is in the interest of OPEC (nations), both politically and economically to maintain a power hold on non-members. Most of these nations are Islamic and the ones that are not, are extremely or moderately anti-American, so there is a political motivation.

However there is an even stronger economic motivation and that is to keep control of supply. By lowering prices, OPEC is forcing the competition to shut down for the simple reason that OPEC oil is cheaper to extract than non-OPEC oil, especially dirty oil from shale, like Canada's Tar Sands.

For all the talk of championing domestic oil reserves and becoming self-sufficient, it all comes down to money and North Americans and Europeans will always buy cheaper foreign oil over more expensive domestic supplies. After all patriotism tends to fail when subjected to market pressures.

For environmentalists this means that fracking, shale oil and expensive ocean-drilling cannot compete.

The new Republican congress can go ahead and vote for Keystone but it won't be built if there is no profit in it.

The respite will not be permanent. At some point even Middle Eastern and other OPEC supplies will be diminished and demand will lure the investors back to the Tar Sands and fracking.

However until then OPEC can control the situation by raising prices when their opposition is forced to shut down and by lowering prices when their opposition tries to recover, thus keeping their competitors in a state of uncertainty, which does not bode well for investors.

What this means is more time can be bought to develop alternatives like solar, which is now entering a new sophisticated stage of technological development.

OPEC is not a friend to environmentalists, but for environmentalists it is a classic case of a divide and conquer strategy with the enemies of our enemies being our friends, at least temporarily.

Environmentalists should welcome the OPEC strategy as a way to shut down the Tar Sands, the expensive and environmentally threatening pipelines, and to curtail deep-water drilling.