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The day Burgan fields stop pumping oil!   

Kuwait Times - 10 May, 2012
Author: Fouad Al-Obaid

Conventional wisdom has it that all finite resources come with an expiry date. It needs to be on the horizon one day. This notion is particularly disturbing when it comes to a resource we have grown fond of, and has allowed modern development. Oil, ever since mid-last century, has given rise to an economic and construction boom seldom seen in history. Kuwait, just like many of its sister Gulf states, has enormously benefited from the discovery, extraction, production and export of what many have dubbed ‘black gold.’ Relentlessly, day in and out, on a 24-hour basis, oil has not stopped flowing for the past 60 years – during the Iraq invasion period, billions of barrels of potential oil exports were burnt off.

The lifestyle, in terms of modern comfort, is being maintained in this part of the world due to oil income, which leads me to question how would we have developed should oil not have been discovered beneath our desert? In conceptualizing such a scenario, I could not have envisioned a country at all, amid a 20th and now 21st century revolution, without even the most basic commodity – water – available in semi-abundance. Here, temperatures rose to above 50 degree Celsius, there were no real cultivable lands, no historical significance to a technologically advanced globalized world, modern Afghanistan would compare better.

The only reason Kuwait, Dubai, and Doha to name a few cities in our region have developed and left to history their old mud-houses is due to this precious commodity which is soon nearing an end. Depending on different analysis this day could be nearer for some, and perhaps a bit later for others. But the ultimate question that we ought to be considering is that when it does – and it will, what will we do? How will we derive clean water? With what will we produce electricity and in what quantities? How will we commute? What industries will we create to diversify the economy? Will we master knowledge and become a global center of knowledge?

One thing is clear, when it is announced that Burgan oilfield has pumped its last barrel, it will be a day of reckoning like no other. Perhaps, we could be faced with an apocalypse of amplitude not seen in history. If we fail to properly plan ‘beyond petroleum’ economy, we will wake up one day to a city that will shortly start to crumble amid chaos that is seldom seen. Unfortunately, the way things are, when considering the quality of the debate surrounding this important issue that remains largely ignored, I fear for the future.

I hope that we will start waking up to the reality that oil will not last forever, and that it is our collective duty to start planning for a post-oil economy and start massively investing in renewable energy sources and alternative economic activities in order to sustain our current lifestyle and maintain our global relevance.

By Fouad Al-Obaid, Staff Columnist

Twitter: @Fouadalobaid
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