Cars are going to render the Middle East irrelevant
Happy new year motor heads and petrol sniffers, I'm back after a long refreshing month's break. And as per standard I've got a bit of a bee in my bonnet. I've actually got two of them; Iran and the United States of America.
In case you've been living under a rock, I'm going to bring you up to date on current world geopolitics and internet meme culture. Two weeks ago Donald Trump ordered a drone strike on a lad named Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. Soleimani, turns out, is one of the top Iranian generals. He's in charge of clandestine extraterritorial operations, the Quds force (many have compared these guys to the Navy SEALS, but a more accurate representation is the Special Activities Division of the CIA) and just an all round generally evil guy. With that in mind his resume is long. He's basically responsible for every proxy war in the Middle East fought since 2000 (a proxy war is a war where a country isn't directly involved against their aggressors but they do things like targeted raids, air raids, drone strikes, arming and training).
Anyway, following that strike Iran retaliated by launching a couple of ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) at United States air bases in Iraq, which caused exactly zero casualties. And the internet basically exploded. The World War III meme was created in hysteria and almost every "reputable" news source on earth created a live blog to get everyone hyped about the destruction of the world.
Here's the thing, it's never going to happen. Yeahp, you heard me right, it's never going to happen. And I'm going to explore exactly why this is today. And funnily enough, what role automotive plays in all of this.
Brief lesson in some more geopolitics, the Middle East has basically been invaded continually since, well ever. There are a couple of reasons behind this. The first is religion. Israel and subsequently the ancient city of Jerusalem has been a sticking point for basically every religion on earth apart from Hinduism and Buddhism and even those religions still talk about those worlds in their ancient scriptures. Not to mention the multiple significant religions sites scattered all over Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. So classically that part of the world became highly valued by fanatical leaders.
The second was strategy. Northern Africa and the Middle East are basically strategic strongholds. They have overland ports which allow you to transfer resources from Europe to Asia, Australia, America, Africa and Russia. But more importantly they were the perfect places to base Navy units in the event that war broke out. This was extremely important during World War I where the Turkish sided with the Germans and World War II where the Nazi's invaded Egypt (and where large scale battles broke out as a result between British, American, Australian and Axis forces).
The last is most relevant here; oil. A good chunk of my family work within or have a share in the oil industry. And they all agree that ironically the Middle East do not have the biggest oil reserves on earth. In fact they all believe that America has that title, but their reserves are largely untapped. With that in mind though, the Middle East were politically weak and easy targets for invasion. Hence the United States' resolution to invade Iraq during 2003, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the 1980s and the large swag of proxy wars that have been fought in surrounding countries.
Here's the thing, not one of those points are actually all that relevant over the next 10, 20, 50 years. Religion is slowly becoming extinct and certainly no Eastern and Western confrontations are being fought about it anymore. Technology has rendered the idea of a strategic stronghold useless, with the introduction of the ICBM, UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle or drone) GPS imaging and long range spy and bomber stealth aircraft like the now defunct B-52 and it's replacement the B-2 Spirit. And finally the commercial world is slowly rendering oil production defunct as well.
That's the point I really want to hawk on about here, oil. And whilst Donald Trump isn't mentioning it specifically presently I guarantee you it's front and center of his mind. Politics in general in fact are becoming secretly more and more about oil. But not because of its relevance, it's because of its continual but slowing sales and overall consumed volume. I'm not just referring to the idea of high renewable energy vehicle uptake either. Your classic internally combusted engine is becoming far more fuel efficient. In the past ten years alone we've gone from having a Volkswagen Golf with an average consumption of over 10 liters per 100km to a little over 5. And bigger commercial vehicles are going down the same path.
This is part of the reason that oil and subsequently combined fuel has become far more expensive over the past short while. Not just that but there's actually a gross surplus of oil in general worldwide. You'll never hear about it in the media but in industry it's referred too as the "oil glut" and it began in around 2014. It's actually part of the reason Venezuela is in such a bad economic situation (but we'll touch on that another time because if you think this is confusing, that's a whole other world).
Fuel efficient cars aside though let's talk about the future of automotive. Because there's a couple of ways in the near future that oil is going to become totally irrelevant. All car manufacturers on earth are developing carbon neutral vehicle alternatives. There are four main paths those alternatives could go as well, and none of them involve oil or the Middle East. These are; electrification, hydrogen, nuclear fission and bio-diesel. And guess what, they all have either commercial products in market, a massive research budget or working prototypes. That means that mass production is not all that far away.
For me though that begs the question, why are all our Western Countries still involved in either proxy wars or strategic placements in the Middle East? And the truth is, I think most of them don't want to be. In fact Donald Trump proved that when he approved the drone strike on General Soleimani. He had a shot to take one of the most dangerous war lords on earth out who has been a war mongerer in the Middle East for decades and he pressed the button. Whats more, Trump knew Iran would retaliate but in a very controlled fashion.
In fact Iran has been poking the United States of America more and more over the past three years and it is literally because it's becoming more and more irrelevant. This also makes the Iranians far more dangerous than they've previously been. You see the Straight of Hormuz (a body of ocean where the majority of the worlds oil gets transported by ship) borders on Iranian shores. That means that classically Iran has had a bit of bargaining power with the US and the remainder of the Middle East.
But what happens when industry suddenly decides it doesn't need oil anymore? We're already seeing classic oil producers like Shell and BP buy up electrification energy properties across Europe and in Australia. Suddenly Iran and the Straight of Hormuz are valueless. And the result is that Iran has exactly no bargaining power not just with the US but with everyone. That leaves them two options, they either reform with the Western way of life (like China and Vietnam have successfully done in the past). Or they wage a targeted war with the US and its allies. And history tells us that war in the Middle East neither benefits the nations involved or the nation which war is being fought on.
So what'll happen? Well, here's my prediction. The Middle East will become irrelevant. The Saudis, Iranians, Iraqis, Yeminis, Syrians and Palestinians will all have to find an alternative way to make some sort of money. And they'll probably look to successful Western allies like the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Israel. All of which who now make a nice little penny on their successful luxury tourism industries. And that means they also all need to get safe, clean and polite really quick.
It also means, though, that we can hope that the Middle East may find a prolonged period of peace and hopefully a little bit of prosperity as well. For a continental section which has seen more war than anywhere else on earth for thousands of years, I think everyone agrees with me when I say they deserve a little bit of peace and quiet.