Today’s inflation isn’t just caused by a post-pandemic rebound in fuel prices, but a long-term exhaustion of oil production. We need to end our dependency on fossil fuels without it becoming the pretext for another wave of austerity.
The price of crude oil has soared to over $90 per barrel from the early-pandemic depths of under $20. This is one of the key factors driving high inflation — now a key issue in the United States and around the world, with numerous countries facing price volatility not seen in decades. Supply chain disruptions and a COVID-19-induced dearth of new oil investments are partly to blame for this. But something deeper than the pandemic and its aftershocks is destabilizing global capitalism.
Matthieu Auzanneau is an author specializing in the oil industry and director of the Paris-based Shift Project, a think tank focused on ending the use of fossil fuels. His 2015 book, Oil, Power, and War: A Dark History (Chelsea Green, 2020), is a sprawling history of the oil industry. Pétrole: Le déclin est proche (Seuil, 2021, not yet in English), coauthored with journalist Hortense Chauvin, discusses the effects of passing the “peak” of conventional oil production in 2008.
Jacobin’s Harrison Stetler spoke to Auzanneau about the upheavals in the oil industry, the transition to other energy sources — and who’s paying for it.