Beneath Antarctica, a wonderland of oil awaits exploitation

A report in The New York Times published on Monday revealed that the Chinese are aggressively engaged in securing the country’s energy future overseas. The People’s Republic is courting Latin American governments, securing its ties to African strongmen, is building up a military presence in the South China Sea, and has sent hundreds of advisors to the Caribbean; all in pursuit of energy security.

One of the PRC’s latest targets is the frozen continent of Antarctica, where an international accord reached in 1959 prohibits mining and military activity. “But [Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to a south Australian port last autumn] was another sign that China is positioning itself to take advantage of the continent’s resource potential when the treaty expires in 2048,” The Times reported, “or in the event that it is ripped up before, Chinese and Australian experts say.”

And the stakes are high for China and every other nation interested in exploiting the resources beneath Antarctica. “If the accord does expire, Antarctica could become the next major source of hydrocarbons on earth. The region is believed to have an approximate 200 billion barrels of oil, in addition to being the largest single repository of fresh water on the planet,” Business insider reported.

That’s right. 200. Billion. Barrels of oil. And over 90 percent of the world’s freshwater ice mass.

The very existence of the southern continent undermines virtually every apocalyptic climate change argument ever made.

“The document, released Thursday, is a kind of road map of hazards meant to help U.S. intelligence agencies decide which of the world’s biggest problems to study most intensively over the next four years,” Foreign Policy reported last year. “Water shortages, as well as fierce competition for food and energy, will continue to bedevil leaders in the United States and abroad, the document concludes.”

But necessity is the mother of invention, and the imperative of having access to fresh water is the mother of all necessity.

As for the thoroughly debunked concept of “peak oil,” that theory fell out of favor when hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology revolutionized the energy exploitation industry. As a result of the discovery of a vast reserve of crude under Antarctica, that hypothesis should now be dead and buried. It is, however, instructive to revisit the doomsday predictions associated with that theory, too.

In 2005, The New York Times noted that American regularity agencies were warning that the irreversible depletion of the world’s oil reserves was imminent:

One of the starkest warnings came in a February report commissioned by the United States Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. ”Because oil prices have been relatively high for the past decade, oil companies have conducted extensive exploration over that period, but their results have been disappointing,” stated the report, assembled by Science Applications International, a research company that works on security and energy issues. ”If recent trends hold, there is little reason to expect that exploration success will dramatically improve in the future. . . . The image is one of a world moving from a long period in which reserves additions were much greater than consumption to an era in which annual additions are falling increasingly short of annual consumption. This is but one of a number of trends that suggest the world is fast approaching the inevitable peaking of conventional world oil production.”

In fact, the only argument that the self-described scientific community can muster in order to preserve the viability of these and other nightmare scenarios is by erecting still more nightmare scenarios about what would happen if these resources were exploited. Many will resent being held accountable for their predictions that never materialized, but those who claim they are purely empirical shouldn’t be spared from being exposed to the evidence against them. While the so-called scientific community will attempt to shame those who read their past work into keeping quiet about it, it would be irresponsible to fail to remind the most apocalyptic voices around us of their dubious track records.