Comment

Stopping globalization is like trying to stop time.

Nov 1st, 2001

Cultural globalization

Stopping globalization is like trying to stop time. Even if developed nations agreed that globalization was an unfair or unethical interference in the economics and politics of lesser-developed countries, the movement is too pervasive and encompassing to stop. For example:

  • Mass communications: Where culture-exposing television does not penetrate in the world today, e-mail invariably does. E-mail is the resource of young people in lesser-developed countries, and high-resolution video transmission is growing as a significant component in that communications form.
  • Personal communications: Cellular voice and two-way data transmission are providing a powerful channel to speed personal communications. Where telephone landlines are too costly for poorer populations, cellular communication is making the jump.
  • Transportation: Air transport continues to expand globally, and in areas where roads have not been possible or economic, air travel is bridging geography. Small fuel-efficient passenger and cargo planes can now link up the smallest airports in remote areas.
  • Consuming tendencies: Regardless of prohibitive measures, over time, images of consumer items and consumption transmitted into lesser-developed countries are having a cultural impact. Once disposable income begins to develop in any economic system, consumerism invariably follows.

While countries and convictions may temporarily slow economic globalization, cultural globalization is sneaking in through the back door.


Information transparency

A single world economy (perhaps a corollary to globalization) appears to be a reality now, and the hand wringing has already started. While many business displacements are likely to occur on a local basis, if the example set by the petroleum industry is any guide, civilization will be the beneficiary.

All businesses and investors involved in economic systems search relentlessly for competitive efficiency and information transparency, and a global economy is no exception. What we see as disheartening events - Third World manufacturing shutting down and emerging nations hit by currency deflation - are part of that global efficiency search. The impact is painful and difficult to defend or explain, but such discontinuities will continue until the factors of production (labor, capital, technology) come into balance around the globe.

In a single global economy, oil and gas price cycles, like most other critical commodities, should level out and behave more like regular business cycles. Major petroleum industry layoffs should diminish because large-scale hiring won't take place in rising price conditions. Also, internal funding will function more on a project-by-project basis, rather than by divisions, so that constraining oil and gas production during weakening price conditions should be quick and effective.

Unfortunately, the petroleum industry, for the time being, will still have to reckon with the too-lengthy process of scaling up oil and gas recovery, but a global information economy will take it into account, along with storage and demand data. For oil and gas producers, the world will not be perfect because political and military actions and major events will still pose a considerable risk, but the petroleum business, as we know it, will change forever.


From darkness to light

Before the National Science Foundation and multi-government sponsored Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) existed, the seas were a vast little-known frontier. We knew little about the composition of deposits just beneath the deep seafloor. The shape of subsea geography was obvious, but not its geological composition. While seismic revealed much, it left questions that only drilling activity could answer.

After hundreds of riserless (and some with a riser) seabed holes cored by the ODP all over the globe, we are now filling in the data gaps in geological history, and environmental history as well. Not only has ODP science shed light on today's speculative issues, but the program has provided ideas and guidance for oil and gas producers moving into ultra-deepwater. The exchange has been a busy two-way street.

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