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Slaves to oil

The argument that world oil reserves have peaked and oil production is in decline seems to have been won. At the fifth international conference organized by the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), held in Italy in June, the focus of the 200 scientists, economists and academics participating turned instead to the likely result – the end of cheap oil. Colin Campbell, Honorary Chair of ASPO International, began the conference by summarizing the history of energy use by humans, from agriculture, animals and slaves, through to wood, coal and oil. ‘It’s significant that slavery came to an end when oil provided energy,’ he observed. No stranger to controversy, Campbell’s observations squarely confront a vital question: what’s going to power capitalism now that oil production levels are falling? It may help explain the rush in the Western world to reintroduce slave-like labour through falling wages and conditions and rising numbers of immigrant workers.

New Internationalist issue 393 magazine cover This article is from the September 2006 issue of New Internationalist.
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