Monday, October 6, 2008

Just another ambergris

This is what I think of oil. Its just another ambergris.

Petrol is as good as water these days. We cannot live without it. We just can't live without it now. Or perhaps it appears so. But I HATE that liquid. If god were ever to condescend on me and ask me for a wish, I'd ask him to rid the world of it in a snap of a finger. Here's why:

Those middle east sheiks make money out of nothing. They generate so much, as to make tree shaped islands for themselves in the middle of nowhere, and build a huge refrigerator to preserve a skiing range right over a 100 degree hot patch of desert. And despite all that, schools in Saudi Arabia teach a 25 year old man, the same lesson we learn in 8th grade here in India. Not a penny spent on education. And why should they bother. There are only the higher and the lower middle classes in Middle east. The wealthy can afford to get educated in UK, while the poor don't need any literacy to clean the camel's behinds. Not to mention the sad plight of the women, who aren't even considered for counting in their census. I am frustrated at that because Saudi girls are too good, and would even make Angelina Jolie look disapprovingly at her puppies from time to time. I don't think Sultan Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud would have hoped for this when he freed his nation from the foreigners to make it 'Saudi' Arabia.

Sultan Abdul Aziz ibn Saud's insignia - Second ruler of Saudia Arabia and the son of Prince Muhammed ibn Saud. The founders of Saudi empire.

But how long do you think their petro-dollars are going to last. In my opinion, their future will be exactly as Matt Damon mentions in 'Syriana'. They were a pack of Nomads 100 years before, and they will be a pack of Nomads hundred years later. Because the fate of their oil is the same as that of the Ambergris.

What is Ambergris? or rather What was Ambergris:

Ambergris is an substance extracted from the intestines of a Sperm Whale. Whenever Whales die, their bodies are carried by other whales to a specific spot in the ocean, called the 'graveyard of whales'. It is extremely difficult to locate a graveyard, as it is often at ridiculous depths. But once found, it would virtually make a whaler into a multi millionaire back in the old days. Since it would allow him to extract tonnes of ambergris. There was a time when Ambergris was worth more than ten times the cost of gold. It was used as a fixative in perfumes, and was the only option then.

Raw Ambergris

However, due to its inconsistent and unreliable availability, industrialists managed to find an alternative, and Ambergris was dethroned by its synthetic successor, Ambroxan. Now a days, Ambroxan is the most widely used fixative, and is cheaply available for perfumery. Although demand for Ambergris is still not quite exhausted since it has other uses in medicine, its worth less than a shoelace now for the perfume industry. It is now a mere byproduct of the whaling industry, and expeditions for locating graveyards have gone extinct lately.

In those days when Ambergris was treasure, traders accumulated gargantuan amounts of ambergris by spending millions of dollars for sake of long term investments. As of now, their investments are just a pile of dirt.

Oil is more widely used and produced than Ambergris. But I believe it is a matter of time when we finally replace it with better and cheaper substitute. There are a lot of problems of course.

Already airplanes powered by solar energy have taken successful flights around the world (although so far they are unmanned), and hovercrafts running on car batteries are beginning to provide better average than the traditional scooter (but for the speed). But when the breakthrough does happen, it would only take an year before the middle east barons would be brought crashing down to bite dust, and all those magnanimous palaces of theirs, with all their grandeur will be auctioned off on ebay.

To those who think it would not happen, I'd like to speak of a Ducktales episode I watched back in school : "Gyro invents a time machine, which is shaped like a helicopter and can fly too. Bubba, uses the time machine to go back in time to find Scrooge. And then back in the medieval time, a prince is pasting bird feathers to his body, while his father, the King, tries desperately to explain to him that man can never fly. Just about that moment, Bubba appears in the medieval time period with his flying time machine and calls out 'Scrooge, Scrooge' from the sky. And then goes flys away. Then the King and the prince both notice him, and the king immediately begins helping his son to paste more feathers to his body to assist him in his quest for flying."

World's largest oil rig in Rio De Janeiro, sinking down. The eventual fate of every other oil rig.


bigvike said...

It was estimated over 10 years ago that the world oil supply would run out by 2040. That estimate was based on the current rate of oil consumption and how much oil they thought was in the ground at the time. They underestimated how much emerging nations like India and China would consume, and overestimated how much was actually in the ground. The alternative technology is already there, the challenge is to make it affordable.

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