Oil, Iraq, China and the U.S.: The geopolitics of “freedom and democracy”

Had an interesting conversation last night at a gathering I was at that made me think about how quickly we’ll run out of oil and what that might have to do with our foreign policy of “spreading freedom and democracy” and the war in Iraq. Then today — during my reading adventure on the ‘net like most days —  I came across this fascinating and balanced article in China Daily entitled, “Experts: Petroleum may be nearing peak.

Could the petroleum joyride — cheap, abundant oil that has sent the global economy whizzing along with the pedal to the metal and the AC blasting for decades — be coming to an end?”

The article talks about experts on both sides of the debate. A guy I’d heard about before, M. King Hubbert, sounded the alarm a LONG time ago and was mentioned in this article, “Back in 1956, a geologist named M. King Hubbert predicted that U.S. oil production would peak in 1970.

His superiors at Shell Oil were aghast. They even tried to persuade Hubbert not to speak publicly about his work. His peers, accustomed to decades of making impressive oil discoveries, were skeptical.

But Hubbert was right. U.S. oil production did peak in 1970, and it has declined steadily ever since. Even impressive discoveries such as Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, with 13 billion barrels in recoverable reserves, haven’t been able to reverse that trend.

Iraq provides a strategic position in the Middle East. Controlling Iraq and having a base in the Middle East means we’ll get *our* oil…no matter what. Part of my conversation last night was about the war in Iraq: “We went there because of terrorism and 9/11” my non-critical-thinking conversation companion insisted. “It’s got nothing to do with oil.”

Oh if it were only true. There is absolutely no question in my mind that terrorism plays some small justification role in the U.S. invading Iraq, but a strategic position in the Middle East — and ensuring America’s uninterrupted supply of oil over the next 4 or 5 decades — is the primary reason we’re there in my opinion. General Norman Schwarzkopf, who led the 1991 attack on Iraq, told the US Congress in 1990: “Middle East oil is the West’s lifeblood. It fuels us today, and being 77% of the free world’s proven oil reserves, is going to fuel us when the rest of the world runs dry.

The world is running out of oil. How fast is open to debate…though with China’s consumption accelerating it’s bound to happen faster. Projecting 2001 production levels, by 2020 83% of global oil reserves will be controlled by Middle Eastern regimes — so you can now see why we’re in Iraq spreading “freedom and democracy” to the Iraq people…while hypocritically tolerating the conservative, highly restrictive Saudi Arabian monarchy.

If you’re interested in learning more, first read “The Oil Factor in Bush’s “War on Tyranny“, then move on to  “Life after the oil crash”…then look at this and this and finish with this Google “peak oil” search. You may end up as agitated as I am.

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  1. Gerald Buckley on June 4, 2005 at 7:19 pm

    Steve –

    I’ve been following your blog since November. I enjoy your eclectic interests a lot (actually). That’s why, just this once, I’d like to offer you a different take on this whole Peak Oil situation. Do you mind if I send you a PDF from the Houston Geological Society Newsletter? I think it will help put a lot of Hubbert’s history into proper perspective and may just neutralize some misconceptions (while further agitating some other concepts).

    I’ll watch my email to see how you respond… Hope you’re open to it.


    PS – I happen to work for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists for the past four years. Call me biased. Transparent… but biased. :)

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About Steve Borsch

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.