Oil and US Military Interests III
Karen A. Harbert, Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, Department of Energy, said in her testimony on March 2, 2006 that “Actions taken by any country to misuse or mismanage their energy resources without considering the global implications of their actions will have a negative impact on every country. As traditional energy resources become scarce and more difficult to develop, energy security will become an even more critical component of economic security and national security. …. Resources are often located in places that are geographically hard to reach, geologically difficult to develop, politically unstable, or unfriendly to new investment.”
In other words, be scared and keep in mind that oil is a vital interest.
Former CIA director James Schlesinger published an article entitled “Thinking seriously: about energy and oil's future” in the winter 2005 issue of The National Interest. After discussing the peak oil issue in length he argues that “The Day of Reckoning is coming, and we need to take measures earlier to cushion the shock. To reduce the shock, measures to ameliorate it should start ten years earlier at a minimum, given the length of time required to adjust the capital stock--and preferably much longer. The longer we delay, the greater the subsequent pain.”
He clearly admits that peak oil is in sight and Americans should do something. What Americans do and has done until now was already in his previous speeches and his actions in the past. In any case, both Harbert and Schlesinger must have been heavily influenced by the Hirsh Report of the DOE.
The US military does not only have many courages soldiers (at the end it is the soldiers who die in action, not the generals) but also has good researchers.
For example, a September 2005 report prepared for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers entitled “Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations” is an important breakthrough on how Pentagon sees the future of oil and beyond.
Except for a “Mission Impossible” style warning on inside cover stating “DESTROY THIS REPORT WHEN IT IS NO LONGER NEEDED. DO NOT RETURN IT TO THE ORIGINATOR” the complete report must be taken serious.
If you didn’t known that the report belongs to Army you would have thought that it is another Peak Oil story belonging to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas school. Consider the following:
“The doubling of oil prices from 2003-2005 is not an anomaly, but a picture of the future. Oil production is approaching its peak; low growth in availability can be expected for the next 5 to 10 years. As worldwide petroleum production peaks, geopolitics and market economics will cause even more significant price increases and security risks. One can only speculate at the outcome from this scenario as world petroleum production declines.”
But No, it is an official Army publication.
“The Army must immediately begin to consider the short- and long-term issues involved in developing enduring energy policies and solutions for its military installations. To sustain its mission and ensure its capability to project and support the forces, the Army must insulate itself from the economic and logistical energy-related problems coming in the near to mid future,” the report says.
The report also depicts the likely shape of future geopolitics:
“In conclusion, we are clearly entering a very different period for global energy markets and relations. We shall continue to face geopolitical risks and uncertainties and concerns around energy security will continue to rise. Petroleum will remain the most strategic and political energy commodity with natural gas running a close second. There will be increasing focus on sustainability and potential constraints of our current energy paths—especially in light of climate change, investment requirements, and resource depletion. The situation is particularly acute in the case of petroleum. These are complex issues and they have to play out in relation to one another. The roles of leading actors in the global energy system will also change as the center of gravity for oil production shifts back towards the Middle East and Central Asia.”
Then it looks at solutions by a rather impressive comparison of all major renewable and non-renewable energy options. Then it draws some conclusions:
“A secure, reliable, and cost effective energy system must be robust, diverse, and aggressively incorporate renewables, energy efficiency, and intelligent use of fossil fuels. Our best options for meeting future energy requirements are energy efficiency and renewable sources. Energy efficiency is the least expensive, most readily available, and environmentally friendly way to stretch our current energy supplies.”
But it recommends
a) to increase national supplies and release capacity, and
b) to open up Federal lands for oil and natural gas harvesting where environmentally appropriate
in helping the Army meets its energy challenges.
Isn’t this a contradiction compared to the most parts of the report in which renewables and technology are supposed to give the answer? Indeed, they said inside the report exactly the likely outcome of all the discussion which did not show up in the conclusions: “Oil wars are certainly not out of the question.”
(Some extended quotations from that report as well as other references are given in the Peak oil and the Army’s Future by the editors of EnergyBulletin.)
In fact, Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, already warned in June 2005 that the global battle for control of energy resources could become the modern equivalent of the 19th century great game. He is reported saying that "The amount of energy is finite, up to now in relation to demand, and competition for access to energy can become the life and death for many societies. It would be ironic if the direction of pipelines and locations become the modern equivalent of the colonial disputes of the 19th century."
Now lets go back to an article appeared in March 1975 issue of Harper’s Magazine. The article argues that seizing Arab oil (read Saudi Arabia) is the only way to break OPEC, after discussing that to break OPEC by economic and financial means are not viable. Because it is not easy a) to stop oil revenues to buy hard assets (companies, real estates abroad), b) to cut demand more than supply cut, and c) to let oil revenues not to end up Swiss accounts or to force to lend in very long term with very low interest. Therefore the author claims that “the only feasible countervailing power to OPEC's control of oil is power itself—military power,” combined with an embargo. This being the ultimate goal, he says, “there is only one feasible target: Saudi Arabia.”
“In a sober assessment, mindful of all political costs and all the strategic risks, it can be done. It must be done. For if we do not do it, Project Independence will in fact be Project Isolation, with a somewhat impoverished America surrounded by a world turned in a slum,” he adds. He justifies it also in the same ridiculous was as he follows in the article: “And since no one denies that the dependence of the Western world on Arab oil is absolute, if their analysis were correct, it would mean that we are living at the mercy of the Arabs, that is to say, of the Russians.”
All these signal the necessity of preparedness of military to possible oil wars.
On the other hand, as April 24, 2006 issue of the Newsweek Magazine stated “The U.S. lives in an energy trap. We fell into it gladly, dug it deeper and sit fat and happy, with blinders on.”
The United States would be all but powerless to protect the American economy in the face of a catastrophic disruption of oil markets concluded a war game called "Oil Shockwave".
The exercise, conducted in mid 2005, was organized by National Commission on Energy Policy and Securing America's Future Energy. The scenarios were shaped by a team of former oil industry executives and government officials, including former CIA directors R. James Woolsey and Robert Gates, former Marine Corps commandant General P.X. Kelley, former EPA administrator Carol Browner, and Rand Beers, White House counterterrorism expert.
The exercise began with ethnic unrest in Nigeria, followed by al Qaeda attacks on key energy facilities - Valdez oil terminal in Alaska and a major oil port in Saudi Arabia.
The results of the game showed that the U.S. government had few options in the short term to prevent an economic crash in this country and worldwide. More specifically those three assumed interruptions, which are very realistic, would lead the oil prices to explode to $150 per barrel, gasoline pump prices to skyrocket to $5.3 per gallon of gas, American jobs to vanish more than 2 million, and S&P 500 blue chip stock index to drop by 28%.
The participants concluded that they must press the president to invest quickly in promising technologies to reduce dependence on overseas oil, such as hybrid cars powered by gasoline and plug-in electricity; and cars that run on fuels derived from prairie grasses, animal waste and other products. They all agreed these projects would take years to yield any benefit but should not wait for the kind of crisis they were dramatizing.
Some others, however, think that $5 Gas Is Good for America and suggests “Keep driving. In fact, drive more. The longer gas stays expensive, the higher the chance we'll see alternatives.”
A few months later, in October 2005, European troops from France, Belgium and Germany conducted air and ground exercises in southern France simulating an international defense of an oil-rich country under attack. It was only reported that the objective was to be able to command from Paris an operation that is happening 5,000 kilometers away.
November 2003 issue of Defense Horizons starts with a soft warning: “While there is no near-term fuel crisis facing DOD, this situation is likely to change over the coming decades as fossil fuel reserves deplete and world demand for them grows. DoD will be confronted with some significant challenges, ranging from protecting U.S. interests as supply and demand come into increasing conflict, to resolving defense-unique fuel requirements as the Nation moves to alternate fuels.”
However, the report is not very optimistic about Hydrogen, which is seen by many as the saver of future oil problem. “The current trend toward a hydrogen economy presents DoD with some special challenges, because a pure hydrogen fuel likely will not satisfy many DOD requirements. The resolution of this problem will take decades,” concludes the report.
An article by Lt. Col. John M. Amidon in the winter 2005 issue of the Joint Forces Quarterly discusses in length the Peak Oil and beyond from military point of view. The author first admits that current energy strategy of the US assumes its oil needs can be meet “by managing the oil-producing countries diplomatically and militarily.” He continues with “However, this thinking overestimates the available oil supply, ignores growing instability in the oil-producing countries, and understates the military costs of preserving access.”
He is doubtful that “any military, even that of a global hegemony, could secure an oil lifeline indefinitely. Failing to take urgent economic steps now will necessitate more painful economic steps later and likely require protracted military action.”
All these statements up to here oversaw one vital point: Just as we currently demand assured access to sources of oil, in the near future we will demand assured access to a broad-based, diverse supply of genes, ie, plants and animals. This issue is tackled in a stunning article entitled “From Petro to Agro: Seeds of a New Economy” by Robert Armstrong in October 2002 issue of Defense Horizons.
“As agricultural fields will assume the same significance as oil fields,” he argues, “Relations with oil-rich countries will be of less importance, and relations with gene-rich states will assume greater significance.” He points to equatorial regions as the main target for securing the future needs.
From whatever angle we look at the security issues it becomes clear that future of the world will be very unsecured one.
Likely path in the 21st century
In the first five years of the 21st century, American interests in energy corridor country Afghanistan has been secured and Iraq is down. Now, the focus is on Iran.
This time, however, Pentagon has started to be careful for not too clearly indicate that oil is the most vital US interest, even though Pentagon knows that
Asian consumers will become the most important customer of the Persian Gulf oil.
The US oil demand will increase substantially in the next 25 years.
Peak Oil is approaching and the US needs to secure its future oil supplies.
Mexican oil production would not be sufficient enough to continue to be the second largest import source of the US.
Oil sands production will not be sustainable in the future due mainly to environmental pressures and other technical and economic reasons. This means Canada, today’s largest oil import source of the US, cannot be relied too much.
North Sea oil production is going down and Europe is becoming more dependent on Russia.
The White House has long neglected South America and now must admit that it made a very big mistake. But in the mean time Bolivarian revolution is spreading throughout South America and the region will not be the puppet of the US, at least in the short to mid term.
According to the EIA, the US consumed 20.7 Mb/d of oil in 2005, of which 6 Mb/d of net total supply came from the Western Hemisphere, especially from Canada and Mexico. In 2005, net imports accounted for 58% total petroleum consumption. Thirteen countries in the Western Hemisphere provided 49% of gross imports.
Pentagon also knows that the US is addicted to oil but the American way of life is non-negotiable. It also knows that we are already too late for alternatives. Moreover, American economy and the US dollar are in big danger.
But the US military is still the world’s biggest power and oil consumer. See my DoD Factsheet for more on this.
Therefore, Pentagon had to create a global ghost enemy called “terrorism”, which is enough to scare everybody living in this planet. The words such as treat, concerns, democracy, terrorism, liberty, interests, freedom have become to be used as scam reasons for a global war against ghosts.
While playing around with regional definitions such as “Persian Gulf”, “Southwest Asia” and “Middle East” Pentagon in fact has already selected Africa as the US’s next oil frontier and has been working hard towards that (see for example, a very recent article on that). The world has been deceived. The US, however, is not the only one to be blamed on. All superpowers are guilty.
Today, double standards surrounding nuclearization coupled with ever increasing sales of military weapons and equipments push us closer to a clash over “interests”.
It seems that “interests” are now turning into “concerns”, and wars are considered to be a solution to concerns. We, humans, consider ourselves as “intelligent animals”. But history proves that we do not deserve the adjective “intelligent”. Shame on us!