And I cannot argure his cogent points. It does take more energy to move natural gas from Titan to Terra than you can get burning the natural gas. It will always be cheaper to mine marginal sources on Terra than go fetch it from the ass-end of the Solar System. All of this is true, and in a world where things like physics, hard reality, and logical allocation of resources are the guiding forces, we would never import oil for Titan.
...But. We don't live in a world like that, do we?
I bring this up because I realized that there is a hidden cost to continually extracting oil from Terra that is so steep, it would in fact be cheaper to improt the stuff from the vicinity of Saturn. I say "hidden" cost, but this cost is widely advertized and extensively debated in the news, private homes, schools, and of course all over the internet. This "hidden" cost is not only measured in ridiculous amounts of money, it is also measured in a tragic human cost. The cost includes tens of thousands of lives every year, as well as millions of families losing their homes, livleyhoods, and health. Yet despite this cost, we continue to mine oil on Terra with a fanatic vigor and show no signs of stopping.
I'm talking about war, of course.
Just to put it in perspective, the total profits of the American oil industry in the last ten years is a bit less than 930 billion. It sounds like a lot, I know, but the Iraq War, which we fought for about the same amount of time and was motovated far more by oil politics than anyone in Washington wants to admit, has cost to date 1.7 trillion dollars, or not quite twice as much as the oil profits for the same period. Of course, the oil profits belong to the big five US oil companies, and the cost of the war is the responsibility of the American taxpayers...
Anyway, the cost is actually much worse than it appears. Because we're still paying for that war - veteran's benefits, despite being way, way less than our servicemen and women need or deserve, will end up costing over the next three decades (the estimated lifespan of the veterans of the Iraq War) an additional 6 trillion dollars, or about two hundred billion a year. Verses 93 billion a year in oil profits.
This is bullshit.
Sorry, but I really think it is. This is the hidden cost of our oil, more hidden than the tax at the pump already included, that most of us aren't in the habit of counting as the price of doing business in the petroleum-fueled industrial world. If I may, I strongly sugesst that you we start getting used to it, because as Earth's petroleum reserves get lower, our likelyhood of going to war over what remains will only increase.
I see a youngster standing in the back of the audience shouting something about moving our industry off of petroleum as a cheaper alternative to going to war or going to Saturn. Both of these points are true - and both are also very, very false. At face value and on paper, it would be cheaper to move our entire industrial infrastructure to something other than Big Oil, and then be sitting pretty while the rest of the world fights over the dregs of crude left in the sand. But it doesn't work out that way in practice. For one thing, no civilization has successfully survived the transition from one form on energy to another. For another thing, we wouldn't just have to get the government and practically every industry in the world to agree to the cost of such a transition, we would still have to pay for the energy we're using now and there's mounting evidence that we don't have enough resources to do both anymore.
Weather the above is true or not, it's plausible. And that's all I need.
So let's say we're stuck with oil and the growing need to fight for it. That is, of course if you can fight for it, because not every nation has the massive military-industrial complex America does. China does, and while they burn enough coal to make 19th century England look like a wet firecracker, they too are fighting for the same oil the US is. Right now, they're fighting with money and economics. If something doesn't change fundementally and radically, it is only a matter of time before they fight with their huge-ass Air Force and all of those ASATS and cruise missiles they've been building.
Now, suppose you're a nation, or group of nations, that are advanced industrialy but lack the military power to take on the Big Two for the world's dwindling oil supply. I can think of three off the top of my head - The UK, France, and Japan - and Germany, so four. Now, a couple of these are nuclear powers. Two have top-notch manufacturing bases, and all of them have excellent aerospace firms. I bring those points up because there is a spacecraft design, available since the sixties, that can use that nuclear arsenal and aerospace tech to get to Saturn with a five- to seven-thosand ton payload: The Orion (old boom bloom) Nuclear Pusle Battleship.
Unlike the spacecraft that so terrified Kennedy back in the day, this "battle ship" is unarmed. what it carries are the makings of Titan's first space station, laser launch facility, oil refinery, and plastics plant. Afterall, Saturn was the destination of the first big Orion mission proposal. But our Orion is not there for flags and footprints - though it may very well plant a flag, because while the Outer Space Treaty may forbid political claims on exteraterrestrial territory, unless some else builds a freaking Orion, there's precious little they do about it.
In space, anyway. After all, just becuase a handful of nations in Europe and Asia have oil fields around Saturn doesn't mean they can keep the oil, any more than the handful of Middle Eastern countries with oil fields in their own territory can keep it. But I don't expect this group of nations that first exploit Titan to keep it - I expect the UN to end up with it, and handle portioning out the oil in the name of Keeping the Peace.
In other words, the Conjunction Universe.
How much would it cost? Billions. Tens of billions. And years of R&D. And probably hundreds of lives. In other words, easily a thousand times cheaper than oil from Earth is, when you factor in all the costs.