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Friday, August 26, 2005

Oil Addiction: The World in Peril - 15

by Pierre Chomat (Universal Publishers, 2004)

translated from the French by Pamela Gilbert-Snyder

Part II. Age of Excess

Chapter 15. The New Slave Traders

We now know that Habib's fears were well-founded with regard to his "pipelines of shame". The torrent of ergamines flowing out of the Sahara has never stopped. Each day, Algerian exporters send seven hundred thousand barrels of black gold to foreign lands. It is as if they were sending away five thousand times the number of Algerian citizens to work each day abroad. {a} It is only because they would never imagine it in those terms that the traders keep opening the floodgates for the Hassi-Messaoud ergamines, believing they are doing the right thing for their country.

Habib has no idea how to stem the massive flow of energy away from Algeria that its leaders continue to sanction. He imagines that, with only a hundredth of the petroleum it receives, the West could build new industrial complexes that will render all of his own country's industries obsolete, condemning it to ever-greater dependence on the powerful ingenuity of the North. He also knows that, should the day come when Algeria wants to use more of the Hassi-Messaoud or other top-quality ergamines for its own development, it will in all likelihood be too late, because the desert reserves will have been sucked dry.

He still goes to the port at Bejaia sometimes to watch the huge cargos of petroleum leave his country. There, near the place where Ali Aouellim saw the first boat carry away his desert treasure, he watches in deep disillusionment as the "pirate supertankers" wait in the bay for their billions of slaves to be brought to them. His friends suspect that at those times he is nostalgic for his days of hiding in Bejaia's limestone caves, when he made detonators in the fight for a freedom now being squandered by his nation's leaders.

The cargo ships come and go, in fair weather or foul, flying the flags of the West, taking with them the potential labor of generations of Algerians that could have been used to develop their own country. Habib knows that he alone can do nothing to stop the Northern merchants' relentless quest for more energy. The last remaining ergamines will be drained from the desert before his fellow citizens wake up to the bitter taste of a false independence, a hope of freedom they will find only in history books.


{a} The potential energy of the 100 billion ergamines (about 700 thousand barrels) exported each day from Algeria would be equivalent to the physical work that 100 billion Algerians could perform during the same day. Thus, via its oil exports, each day Algeria sends abroad 5,000 times the labor potential of its current population.

Bill Totten


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