Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Why Did the U.S. Really Go To War In Iraq?
Today's Wall Street Journal (WSJ) fronts an article with some very sobering facts concerning the strategic importance of oil reserves and the increasing significance of "energy security" as a determinant of foreign and military policy around the world.
WSJ is careful to discredit "peak oil" theory (some iterations of which see the world depleted of conventional petroleum within the next 35 years). However, WSJ concedes a number of facts that certainly support the alarms being raised by "peak oil" theorists:
- Crude-oil production by nations who aren't members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is widely expected to peak around 2010.
- The International Energy Agency (IEA), the industrialized world's energy-market watchdog, has forecast that world oil demand will rise by 37% by 2030, to 115 million barrels a day from about 85 million today.
- Not only is oil demand skyrocketing in China and India, but oil demand in the Middle East itself (primarily in Saudi Arabia and Iran) has risen by 13% since 2003, a growth rate nearly as high as China's.
- The IEA has concluded that because OPEC does not appear to be investing as much in production as expected, global oil supplies probably won't reach the agency's 115-million-barrel target for 2030. "We are likely to see higher prices for years to come," says Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist.
- The IEA estimates that the 26 industrialized countries that are members of that organization will need to import 85% of their oil by 2030, compared to 63% today.
- According to one long-time oil industry expert, "We have entered the era of scarcity and price rationing."
WSJ acknowledges that these facts are forcing a rethink of U.S. and European diplomatic and military strategy and that a "new order is taking shape." For example:
- WSJ quotes NATO's secretary-general as saying that NATO would consider using force if energy-supply lines were threatened, a major broadening of NATO's mandate: "As far as oil and gas is concerned, I think NATO could play a role to defend the sea lanes."
- WSJ states that in order to supplement Western oil supplies, "the West must build alliances and deploy ships and troops to protect modest supply routes as far afield as the Caspian Sea, the Andean region of South America and West Africa. Now every oil field matters."
- According to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Dick Lugar, "The power of [energy] coercion is really equivalent to a military attack." WSJ reports that Lugar is pushing for a treaty with China and India that would spell out ways for the three nations - all large consumers of oil - to cooperate rather than compete in the event of a supply shock. In today's energy world, Lugar said, natural resources "are strategic weapons."
In addition to this front page article, today's WSJ telegraphs increased oil troubles down the road with these articles:
- Russia to Tighten Access to Oil and Gas Reserves
- Report Cites U.S. Vulnerability to Venezuela Oil-Flow Disruption
- China Considers Ways to Boost Energy Ties With Its Suppliers