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Most revealing Palin energy whopper: Iran could cut off a fifth of the world’s energy supplies

By Joe Romm on September 4, 2008 at 8:59 am

"Most revealing Palin energy whopper: Iran could cut off a fifth of the world’s energy supplies"

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Palin’s full speech contained yet another energy lie, one that is very revealing :

To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of the world’s energy supplies….

Not even close. Yes, if you live in a world where the only energy source is oil, then the Persian Gulf countries do produce 20% of the total world supply — although it would be next to impossible for Iran to cut it all off. And kind of stupid, since they’d lose tens of billions of dollars in revenues themselves.

But we don’t live in a world where the only energy supply for the world is oil — well, maybe Palin and the McCain campaign does, but the rest of us don’t. In the world the rest of us live in, oil is maybe 20% of total world energy usage. And I’m going to ignore efficiency, even though it is certainly the largest energy resource (see “Energy efficiency, Part 2: The limitless resource“).

Bottom line: A really self-destructive Iran might in fact be able to cut off a few percent of the world’s energy supply.

And one more thing. If you were really worried about the possibility Iran might cut off a fifth of the world’s oil supply, cut off some 20 million barrels of oil a day, then it is inane to say you confront that threat by saying “we need to produce more of our own oil and gas.” If you opened every conceivable area now off-limits to drilling, you might get 1 million barrel of oil a day starting in 10 years.

The only way to prepare for losing a fifth of the world oil supply — or, more realistically, to prepare for the reality peak oil –is to transform our transportation system into one that can also run on electricity (see “Why electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence“)

Here is the total global energy use:

Image:World Energy consumption.png

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13 Responses to Most revealing Palin energy whopper: Iran could cut off a fifth of the world’s energy supplies

  1. Robert says:

    Joe, According to Wiki 20% to 40% of the world’s oil passes through the Straits of Hormuz. And Iran has made repeated threats to disrupt this flow.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strait_of_Hormuz#2008_Iranian_Threats

    Any sort of military action is enough to stop all tankers – it has happened before. The SPR is there to cope with such an event and should be kept.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran-Iraq_War#The_Tanker_War_and_U.S._support_for_Iraq

    I don’t know where your chart comes from, but it shows that about 35% of total energy is oil and that oil is the biggest singe source. This is at odds with your commentary. While I agree with your sentiments there is no need to exaggerate the case.

    [JR: The U.S. EIA (which is a tad more authoritative than Wikipedia) says, "In 2006, the Persian Gulf countries (Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) produced about 28 percent of the world's oil." And I seriously doubt that Iran could shut it all down. I'm gonna give Palin her almost one fifth of oil supplies figure. Yes, oil is maybe 35% of total energy use. So let's call it under 7% that Iran could miraculously shut down. A few percent. And drilling still isn't the right way to minimize the threat.]

  2. Ronald says:

    I’ll make a prediction, the McCain acceptance speech is tonight. That McCain will say that he met with Palin and she convinced him that it would be Okay and good to drill in ANWR. That will be one of the pushes this fall election.

    [JR: I tend to agree he will flip-flop on this. I have been more inclined to think he will wait until October.]

  3. Larry Coleman says:

    Hmmm…from your graph it appears that oil is about 40% of total usage, not 20%, which would make it 20% of 40% = 8% overall, still not much in the scheme of things.

  4. Joe says:

    No, it is 5 TW out of 15 TW. You don’t see a lot of renewables — especially biomass.

  5. Samuel says:

    Just to remind everyone, this is what McCain currently says about ANWR: (1) “ANWR is a pristine place. I don’t support drilling there. I just feel that it’s an area that, one, it would take years, I think, before you could actually exploit it;” (2) “ANWR is a pristine place and if they found oil in the Grand Canyon, I don’t think I’d drill in the Grand Canyon.”

    I don’t know when he’ll flip-flop on this one, but it’s definitely on its way.

  6. hapa says:

    need to recalculate this, to include the natural gas resources in iran or within their sphere of influence.

  7. cpmmoe says:

    I think it is highly unlikely that McCain will come out in favor of drilling in ANWR-at least until and if he is elected. On balance my speculation is that the general public, while in favor of increased drilling in some areas when asked about the issue in some-poorly worded?-polls is still not in favor of drilling in ANWR

  8. anon says:

    Great post. There is a typo, though: “congfront”

  9. Robert says:

    This discussion is rather missing the point. If Iran did carry out its threats to disrupt supply the main effect would be massive (new) increases and volatility in the price of oil and huge (extra) increases in the flow of money from consuming to producing nations. For a world already on the edge of recession this would be the final straw. It would be a rerun of the oil shocks of the ’70s which kicked off with an instant quadrupling in price from $3 to $12, rising to $40 within a decade.

    The real reason for getting off oil (aside from climate change) is that it is ultimately unsustainable. As Isaac Asimov pointed out many years ago, the planet is finite, therefore fossil fuels are finite. Oil producers do not “produce” oil – they just withdraw it from our inheritance. And when it is gone is is really gone.

    Meanwhile the population continues to head towards 10 billion with precious little in the way of a plan B. We might get by with electric cars but someone tell me how agriculture is going to continue absent fertiliser, pesticides and farm machinery?

    Special congratulations to Sarah Palin and her clan. If we all have 5 kids then we could hit 17 billion within a generation.

  10. Robert says:

    Re previous post, Oil price chronology, 1970 onwards:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Oil_price_chronology-june2007.gif

  11. Scott says:

    It’s always about the money. Palin was picked so “IF” the mccain party wins, it will be easier to drill in Alaska. NOT for the benefit for America, but for the benefit for there “purses”.

  12. Stu says:

    Just love the yanks attitudes when it comes to oil. The politically correct maintain every war US involves itself in is just a greedy grab for oil, never mind the reality that the US is not stealing Iraqs oil and infact the Irag government is making mega millions on their oil and US is paying the same as everyone else in the world for it. On top of that, US has spent and is continuing to spend more money on building up Iraqs infastructure, economy, and defense then it could ever recover even if it stole every drop of oil in Iraq for the next 10 years.

    While they continue with these idiotic theories, they drive around in massive gallon guzzling monster cars which, if it were true, creates the thirst for oil that would lead the US to the plundering policies they accuse their own governments of.

    Then they oppose governments that want to increase US oil production so they wont have to rely on middle east oil as much.

    They refuse to stop driving their massive truck cars and armoured personal carriers SUV etc etc. They reject electric cars and hybrids more then any developed nation.

    Buying oil from the middle east is transferring more wealth from US to Islamic nations founded on ideologies that command them to destroy western states and convert, subjugate, or kill it’s subjects.

    Why don’t you fucking yanks start backing alternatives, solar, wind, electric cars, and in meantime start extracting every drop of oil and gas as possible from every non-middle east territory as possible. Dependence on Islamic oil is driving the need to suck up to all these horrible regimes all around the world…..and Saudi Arabia is just a land of barbaric morons that is funding nearly every hate preaching mosque and school in your country.

    Personally I think every country should ban the use of V8 and large six cylinder vehicles except where demonstrated to be required for particular use. No car manufacturer or importer should get one cent from government until they produce a certain amount of electric and hybrid cars.

  13. shop says:

    And one more thing. If you were really worried about the possibility Iran might cut off a fifth of the world’s oil supply, cut off some 20 million barrels of oil a day, then it is inane to say you confront that threat by saying “we need to produce more of our own oil and gas.” If you opened every conceivable area now off-limits to drilling, you might get 1 million barrel of oil a day starting in 10 years.