An essay by Ollie Garky, brought to our attention by E. B. Fischadler
Art by Luke Spooner
Mr. (or Ms.) President:
I have an important proposal for the leaders of the western nations. If they are wise enough to adopt my plan, the West can establish control over the world’s economy and have the most powerful political leverage in the history of the world.
A Lesson FROM History
History is replete with examples of military, political, or economic powers arising due to accidents of geography. England, where no citizen lives more than 100 miles from the ocean, became the great sea power of the 18th and 19th centuries. The United States, with its vast prairies turned to farmland, was known in the 20th century as the world’s breadbasket.
Beginning in the latter half of the 20th century, a group of nations around the Persian Gulf were able to parley the vast oil reserves under their soil into control of much of the world’s energy. These nations formed a cartel known as OPEC, the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries. OPEC was able to hold the world’s energy reserves hostage over several decades, its countries going from poor desert lands to the world’s wealthiest.
In the early 1970s, OPEC greatly curtailed oil exports in an attempt to boost prices. By so doing, they created a crisis in the United States, at that time a world superpower. The effect was to permanently alter the economy of the U.S. and to establish OPEC as a world economic power.
What if the U.S. and western countries had some commodity that OPEC couldn’t do without? If such a commodity existed and the western powers could organize to control its distribution, they would re-establish their control of the world economy.
It is by dint of extensive research and insightful and imaginative planning that I have established a plan for the United States and other western powers to regain parity with OPEC. In fact, when successfully implemented, my plan will allow the West to regain their prominent place in the world order. Like OPEC, the West has an accidental geographic advantage over the rest of the world. Following my design, this advantage will give the western world an economic stranglehold comparable, even superior, to that currently held by OPEC.
SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES!
OPEC is able to maintain its stranglehold on the west due to 1) OPEC sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world and 2) the dependence of western economies on oil. Neither of these is likely to change anytime soon. OPEC’s reserves are large enough to last well into the next century. And despite significant efforts to develop alternate energy sources, the West still obtains most of its energy from oil. But there is a substance that is of vital importance to every country in the world, whether eastern or western. In fact, the importance of this substance vastly overshadows that of oil. Without this substance, oil cannot be converted to energy. Of far greater import, though, is that without this substance, life on Earth cannot continue. I am talking about oxygen.
The world relies on a cycle in which oxygen is converted to carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide is converted back to oxygen. The relative amounts of each gas in the atmosphere is maintained in a precise balance. Upset this balance too much and life fails. If there is not enough carbon dioxide, plant life fails. If there is not enough Oxygen, most  animal life fails.
Every country needs vast amounts of oxygen for its citizens to breathe, and to burn fossil fuels such as oil and coal. The OPEC countries consume at least their share of the world’s oxygen, especially since their recent wealth has allowed their upper classes to acquire Porsches, Bentleys, and Gulfstreams, all of which consume vast quantities of oxygen as they guzzle gas. Situated on vast deserts, these countries convert little if any carbon dioxide back to oxygen.
Western countries also consume substantial amounts of oxygen, turning much of it into carbon dioxide. The difference between the West and the East is that western countries also produce vast amounts of oxygen. How? By photosynthesis. Plants take carbon dioxide from the air and emit oxygen as a waste product. A large portion of the world’s renewable supply of oxygen is produced by forests. It has been determined that 31% of the Earth’s landmass is covered by forests. The United States alone accounts for almost 19% of the Earth’s forests, with virtually all the remaining forest in Canada, South America and Europe. The OPEC countries, by contrast, have essentially zero forest, hence contribute nothing to their own or the world’s oxygen supply.
THE NEW OPEC
Under my leadership, the Western Nations will form a cartel, The Oxygen Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC). This cartel would control the world’s oxygen supply and have that other OPEC in a literal stranglehold. Just imagine being able to say, “Sell us oil at $50 a barrel or don’t breathe.” Even if the old OPEC saw this coming, it would take several decades for them to terraform  their lands and establish forests of their own. Meanwhile, the western nations control the flow of oxygen to the old OPEC.
Millions of Americans buy Donald Trump’s plan to build a fence along the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants. By that light, my plan is not terribly ambitious. OPEC can build a fence around the old OPEC to keep oxygen from flowing their way. Initially, my analysis showed that this fence would have to reach the stratosphere, approximately 6 miles high, and completely surround the old OPEC. I estimate the length of this fence to be 4,000 miles.
I have recently revised this estimate after seeing a picture of New York City covered in smog. This occurs when there is insufficient wind to move all the vehicle exhaust out of the city and fresh air into the city to replace it. So the fence need only be as tall as the buildings in New York, say 50 stories on average, to smother the old OPEC in smog. This translates to a height of only 600 feet.
Alternatively, we could simply plant large numbers of engines around the OPEC countries, with their air inlets pointed away from the old OPEC countries and their exhausts pointed toward the old OPEC. These engines would intercept the oxygen flowing into the region and convert it into carbon dioxide and other undesirable stuff, which would flow into the old OPEC.
If they are nice to us, we might open a gate in the wall, or shut down a subset of those engines. If not, we close the gates or floor the throttle on those engines and watch them gag.
THE ULTIMATE THREAT
It may be that the old OPEC will attempt to undermine this strategy by cutting off all oil exports. In such a dire crisis, OPEC could simply threaten to torch its forests. This would serve to generate vast amounts of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and other nasty combustion products, as well as eliminating the source of any future supply of oxygen. Soon, the entire world would be gasping for what little oxygen remains in the atmosphere. Of course that includes members of the new OPEC as well as members of the old OPEC. Hopefully, the old OPEC won’t notice this little detail and our bluff would work. Under such a threat, the old OPEC would have to cave immediately.
This is not a diatribe; I’m not obsessed with the old OPEC. I hold no personal grudge against the citizens of the Middle East. The West’s control of the world’s oxygen supply gives it leverage over any group, any country. Even the most irrational group of radicals, even the most deranged of dictators, knows they have to breathe. Through control of the world’s oxygen, I offer the Western nations the ability to impose truth, justice and the American way over any group or nation.
OXYGEN PRODUCTION AND EXPLOITATION COMMISSION
I have gathered a group of subject matter experts into an organization prepared to serve the US government in creating OPEC. These experts include a worldwide network  of chemists who can measure the current levels of oxygen, the Office for Prediction of Exploitability Conditions. Oxygen management is achieved by three groups. The Office of Prescribed Exposure Control is prepared to deploy engines or a wall around a target area on a moment’s notice. The Oxygen Production Engineering Council comprises retired woodsmen, who can titrate the number of trees in U.S. and European forests in order to regulate the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere to precise levels. In dire circumstances, the Office of Pyromania for Extreme Circumstances can implement the Ultimate Threat. Finally, the Office for Persuasion, Exhortation, and Consequences would realize the enormous leverage available by making threats.
These resources can all be made available to the U.S. government simply by appointing me to a senior cabinet level post: Oxygen Production and Exportation Commissioner, reporting directly to the President. Because of the extraordinary power I wield, I expect to be superior to the Joint Chiefs and all other cabinet officers. Of course, the post would come with the usual six figure salary and perks such as a wood paneled office and personal Gulfstream V.
I eagerly await your response to my Offer to Provide Economic Control.
Member, Organization of Practicing Engineer Crackpots
 I am deliberately ignoring anaerobic organisms. These include rabies and various other ugly diseases. After all, wouldn’t we be better off if they all died?
 Hereafter I, and soon the entire world, shall refer to the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries as the old OPEC, and the Oxygen Producing and Exporting Countries as OPEC.
 They’d have to somehow irrigate all that desert and probably condition the soil. Where we really have them by the neck is they would have to plant vast forests. Of course, we control the market in trees, so can further impede their comeback from our domination.
 Currently the network extends from Secaucus to Parsippany, New Jersey. When I am appointed to my cabinet post, I shall immediately extend its reach to the rest of the world.
Ollie Garky leads a small group of people dedicated to exploiting the West’s control of oxygen in order to restore the western countries power over the rest of the world. These same people are also dedicated to gaining control of the Western countries, or producing economic chaos.
E. B. Fischadler has been writing short stories for several years, and has recently begun publishing. His stories have appeared in Mad Scientist Journal, Bewildering Stories, eFiction, Voluted Tales, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine, and Beyond Science Fiction. In addition to fiction, Fischadler has published over 30 papers in refereed scientific journals, as well as a chapter of a textbook on satellite engineering. When he is not writing, he pursues a career in engineering and serves his community as an EMT. Fischadler continues to write short stories and is working on a novel about a naval surgeon. You can learn more about Fischadler and access his other publications at: https://ebfischadler.wordpress.com/
Luke Spooner, a.k.a. ‘Carrion House,’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree, he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales, his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy, or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility, as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.
“The New OPEC” is © 2017 E. B. Fischadler
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Luke Spooner