“Last remaining oil refineries urged to stay in Australia with $2 billion fuel security package” – ABC News Australia
As probably sufficient background to the situation I will quote just three paragraphs from the ABC article… before I tear it to shreds (the situation, not the article)…
Concerns about Australia’s fuel security were heightened after BP decided to close down its Kwinana refinery in Western Australia just months before ExxonMobil announced it was shutting its Altona plant in Melbourne’s west.
Experts have warned Australia is becoming increasingly reliant on imported refined fuel, while unions argue the nation could “grind to a halt” if maritime supply chains are disrupted by a conflict or natural disaster.
“Fuel is what keeps us and the economy moving. That is why we are backing our refineries,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor said.Linked ABC News article
Australia is an island. A bloody big island, but an island nonetheless. We have no land borders with any other nation. In a land which is approximately the same size as mainland USA but holding a population less than a tenth of that nation. Our remoteness could be a good thing in a world of conflict. Any nation desiring to invade Australia would have to bring its forces by sea or air – which is of course, even today, something of a logistical problem and is also perhaps the only or major reason this resource rich land mass has not so far been troubled by invaders. Except for a minor and not well thought out advance by Japan some 80 years ago.
But nothing lasts forever, and the world is changing – rapidly. The era of advanced technology is coming to an end. That is not a popular idea at the moment, but it is my view and that of a great number of other free-thinkers and well informed people. The idea rests of course on the concept that our current technology based world could not have sprung into existence or be maintained (and that is the important part) but for the ready availability of the natural resource we call ‘Oil’. We have been here before. Even before the turn of the century, the new millennial century, experts were warning that known oil reserves were being depleted and it was concluded that peak oil production would occur around 2005, leading to a gradual decline in availability of the product over time. Well, I’m not going to get into a big or detailed discussion on ‘Peak Oil’, nor am I going to provide any of the thousands of graphic images of oil discoveries, consumption and projections on our use of oil. A few facts are all that is required.
Little in the way of new oil discoveries are being made today. The bulk of oil discovery was made prior to 1980 and has been in decline ever since. Oil consumption? Well, that really didn’t start in earnest until the ’60s of last century, and now, in 2021, we have already consumed the bulk of all discoveries ever made. Not quite of course or our civilisation would have ground to a halt already. Here’s the big thing. Production of the previously discovered oil did actually peak around 2005 as projected. This caused a flurry of desperate moves to find a stop-gap solution to the issue of declining oil, to give us time to find another acceptable long-term solution. This resulted in, as we all know, the ‘fracking’ industry, tar sands, deep sea oil and thoughts of mining the polar Arctic region. At huge cost, including the cost of ruining much of our agricultural land, we ploughed ahead with these ideas and even managed to increase overall production – for a while – never profitably (which every one of us had paid for), but allowing life as normal to continue. We even stopped looking for a workable future solution – the only one of which would have been to power down our economies to operate at some more realistic level. Instead we settled for another short-term, stop-gap scheme which we somewhat unrealistically, you might say ‘foolishly’, called ‘Renewable Energy’ or ‘Green Energy’.
These are ‘solutions’ that cannot work outside the framework of an oil-based economy – anywhere. Trust me. Especially not for Australia – the ‘Wide Brown Land’ – where, even though we currently huddle in a few major cities, our major production facilities (farming, agriculture, mining, tourism) operate at great distances, requiring long-haul transport.
And, you know what? The one resource Australia doesn’t have – in any measurable quantity – is ‘Oil’. Damned bad luck, that! Whatever was god thinking? He must have known that one day his ardent follower, Scott Morrison would worm and weedle his way into being the country’s top leader – and face this conundrum. We can’t just send fleets of trucks up the road to fetch loads of oil to keep our economy afloat, they have to come by sea – in huge diesel powered tanker ships from across the world.
Ok, it’s not all ScoMo’s fault. Australia long ago decided we didn’t need to keep oil or petrol reserves. Just a couple of weeks supply to last until the next big ship arrived. And we had enough local oil refineries – four to be exact – to manage our petrol needs. But oil companies that are also into the refining business, know a thing or two and can see the writing on the wall. So two of them upped sticks and departed these shores in the past few months. Scotty Boy, sweating bricks, came up with the plan to massively subsidise the remaining two refinery companies in hopes that they would stay here for another nine years up to 2030 – a far-sighted plan, no doubt. If it works. Otherwise we could end up with politicians refining oil – a nice image that makes. And it assumes that oil ships will continue to ply their way across the increasingly turbulent and conflict endangered waves to reach us. Oh me, oh my!
And what’s with the 9 years thing? What’s going to be different in 2030, assuming we make it that far? What’s the plan for Aussie transport? Electric cars? Pffft! Where’s the electricity coming from to power all that? Pffft! Poppycock and Balderdash!
Well, I guess there’s always the powering down the economy thing – as a last resort. Well, actually the last resort is we all up sticks and move somewhere else as climate change forces us out of the door, with a leave or die option.
Added after publication:
Giving credit where credit is due, Australia’s erstwhile PM a year or so ago came up with a ‘brilliant’ plan for the nation’s oil security. We would buy some crude oil from the US as an additional reserve in time of crisis and pay for its storage to remain in the US’ own voluminous fuel storage facilities (because we didn’t have any). The story is told here: Australian Government’s $94 million crude oil purchase offers a simple economics lesson
How safe we must feel now, knowing that in a time of its own oil crisis, as global supplies dwindle, the United States – pillager of any and all oil supplies around the world it can lay its hands on – would willingly release to Australia our own ‘paid for’ oil, and presumably ship it to us half way around the world, simply because we are such good friends and allies and all? That’s a system of oil security? That’s our plan?
Explainer: I used the term ‘erstwhile’ to describe Australia’s PM, deliberately. Erstwhile is a much misused old English word which has the now, in modern times, somewhat hidden meaning of ‘of the past’. This certainly applies to Mr Morrison, as it does to all members of his political faction and, sadly, to even the major opposition faction. They are all ‘yesterday’s men’. I should say ‘people’, because they are half-heartedly trying to even out the gender inequality usually found in the political class, but everything is still driven by male instincts. Australia, along with many other countries, is allowing itself to be (mis)guided into an uncertain future by relics of the past. It is not going to end well.
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