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  • Resource wars

    Across the world, they are coming: the water wars. From Israel to India, from Turkey to Botswana, arguments are going on over disputed water supplies that may soon burst into open conflict.

    Yesterday, Britain's Defence Secretary, John Reid, pointed to the factor hastening the violent collision between a rising world population and a shrinking world water resource: global warming.

    In a grim first intervention in the climate-change debate, the Defence Secretary issued a bleak forecast that violence and political conflict would become more likely in the next 20 to 30 years as climate change turned land into desert, melted ice fields and poisoned water supplies.

    Climate campaigners echoed Mr Reid's warning, and demanded that ministers redouble their efforts to curb carbon emissions.

    Tony Blair will today host a crisis Downing Street summit to address what he called "the major long-term threat facing our planet", signalling alarm within Government at the political consequences of failing to deal with the spectre of global warming....

    Armed forces are put on standby to tackle threat of wars over water

    Turkey is increasingly using the water of the Euphrates and Tigris in a manner that augurs severe consequences for Syria and Iraq. Israel occupies the Golan Heights to control water flow. Ethiopia is planning to use more Nile water for itself and this will lead to the ruination of significant areas of agriculture in Egypt's desert plantations.

    In the past climate changes lead to the migration of perhaps a few million people, the coming changes will probably lead to tens, even hundreds of millions of people moving around. Conflicts are virtually guaranteed.

    So what are a few thousand British/European/Western soldiers going to do about this? Why should they intervene at all? How?

    If nomads lose their grassland to the desert and move into areas where other people have settled (e.g. Sudan), what can the West do about this, except maybe kill either the settlers or the nomads? The grassland will not be coming back.

    Should the West send armies to fight Bangladeshis who move north into China or to stop Chinese and Mongols moving into Siberia?

    "Values" or "enlightenment" don't make Western societies in any way superior in solving these problems. So what can Western armies do about this?

    Resource wars. It would be interesting to learn what the 'crisis meeting' is really about.

  • #2
    A PLAN to build an oil pipeline that green activists and many experts say could severely damage Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake, has been approved by Russia’s environmental watchdog.
    Transneft, the state pipeline monopoly, is proposing to build the $11 billion (£6.3 billion) pipeline from Eastern Siberia to the Pacific Coast, via the Chinese border, to supply oil-thirsty Asian markets.

    The proposed route comes within 800m of Baikal, a Russian national treasure and a Unesco World Heritage Site that contains 20 per cent of the world’s unfrozen fresh water. Environmental activists said that they would fight the decision in the courts and organise protests in defence of Baikal, which is home to hundreds of species and revered by local ethnic minorities....

    Thirst for oil threatens a fifth of the world's fresh water


    • #3
      U.N.: More than a billion lack clean water


      • #4
        It's official: the era of resource wars is upon us. In a major London address, British Defense Secretary John Reid warned that global climate change and dwindling natural resources are combining to increase the likelihood of violent conflict over land, water and energy. Climate change, he indicated, “will make scarce resources, clean water, viable agricultural land even scarcer”—and this will “make the emergence of violent conflict more rather than less likely.”

        Although not unprecedented, Reid’s prediction of an upsurge in resource conflict is significant both because of his senior rank and the vehemence of his remarks. “The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur,” he declared. “We should see this as a warning sign.”

        Resource conflicts of this type are most likely to arise in the developing world, Reid indicated, but the more advanced and affluent countries are not likely to be spared the damaging and destabilizing effects of global climate change. With sea levels rising, water and energy becoming increasingly scarce and prime agricultural lands turning into deserts, internecine warfare over access to vital resources will become a global phenomenon....

        The coming resource wars


        • #5
          MEXICO CITY - Water is worth fighting for — even to the death, activists holding an "alternate" forum outside the world water summit said Friday.

          That attitude might seem strange in developed countries, where water flows at the touch of a faucet. But it isn't nearly as accessible in the developing world.

          And water wars aren't an apocalyptic vision of the future. They're already starting to happen, the protesters say.

          "We've been beaten, we've been jailed, some of us have even been killed, but we're not going to give up," said Marco Suastegui, who marched alongside about 10,000 protesters Thursday outside a convention center where the international Fourth World Water Forum is being held....

          Activists pledge to fight for their water


          • #6

            The Sheonath river, a stretch of which has been leased to Radius Water Limited, in Durg district of Chhattisgarh.

            The corporate hijack of water is on and if the current trend continues, India's water sources will be in private hands before long:

            Thirst for profit


            • #7
              A third of the world’s population is suffering from a shortage of water, raising the prospect of “water crises” in countries such as China, India and the US.

              Scientists had forecast in 2000 that one in three would face water shortages by 2025, but water experts have been shocked to find that this threshold has already been crossed.

              Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the International Water Management Institute, said: “We will have to change business as usual in order to deal with the growing water scarcity crisis.”

              About a quarter of the world’s population lives in areas of “physical water shortage”, where natural forces, over-use and poor agricultural practices have led to falling groundwater levels and rivers drying up. But a further 1bn people face “economic water shortages”, because [they] lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers.

              The findings come from a report compiled by 700 experts over five years, the Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture from the International Water Management Institute, presented on Monday at World Water Week in Stockholm, an international meeting of water experts.

              David Molden, co-ordinator of the report, said: “If we continue to manage water in the way we do now, there will more problems with scarcity.”

              He said agricultural practices could easily be improved to reduce the wastage of water.

              Farming uses up 70 times more water than is used for domestic purposes such as cooking and washing. In Thailand, the amount of water used to grow food is about 2,800 litres per person per day. In Italy, about 3,300 litres are required to produce each person’s food every day, of which about half goes on making ham and cheese and a third to pasta and bread.

              Shortages of water are already biting in countries such as Egypt, which imports more than half of its food because it lacks enough water to grow more. In Australia, there is a water shortage in the Murray-Darling basin because so much has been diverted for use in agriculture. In the US, there are increasing disputes with Mexico over the sinking levels of water in the Colorado river.

              Water shortages are compounded by corruption, according to Transparency International. David Nussbaum, chief executive, said between 20 and 40 per cent of total investment in the water sector “does not flow to the people who should be getting the clean water and sanitation”.

              He said big water projects, such as the construction of water networks and treatment facilities, were subject to corruption on a grand scale, but that petty corruption was also common, for instance in cases of people paying bribes to have their water bills reduced.

              The result of both was that it cost poor people more to get access to water, he said.

              But he pointed to the success of a high-profile water “integrity pact” developed in Karachi in Pakistan since 2002 and completed in May this year, as an example of how water projects could be made more transparent. He said the pact had saved at least $3m that would otherwise have been lost to corruption.

              Water scarcity affects one in three


              • #8
                Israel controls water resources in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and seeks to take over water reserves in the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon, according to an Arab League report released on Sunday.

                The study, carried out by the Arab Water Studies and Water Security Center, concluded that Israel was the main cause of water problems in the Middle East.

                It said the average amount of water used by Israel is estimated at about two billion cubic meters, of which 65% comes from the West Bank, Gaza, southern Lebanon and the Syrian Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

                Israeli water comes from rivers, groundwater, and reservoirs, while Palestinian water comes from rain, wells and springs.

                Despite the limited water resources in the Palestinian territories, Israel seized more than 80% of them, the report said.

                Moreover, there are 850 million cubic meters of water available in the West Bank and Gaza Strip annually, but the Palestinians do not use more than 120 million cubic meters as the Israeli government divert their water.

                The average individual in Israel consumes water seven times more than the Palestinians, the report said, stressing that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was linked to the water issue.

                “Israel takes 500 million cubic meters annually from water reserves in the West Bank, which accounts for approximately one third of Israel's consumption”, the study said, adding that the West Bank separation barrier allowed Israel to seize more of Palestinian water resources, as they are now annexed to Israeli boundaries.

                The Arab League report, which focused on Israel’s control and use of water in Palestine, Israel and Jordan, said that large Israeli water projects always rely on drawing water from Arab sources.

                “Israel seeks to control most of the water resources in the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon, the last of which was only meters away from the cease-fire line between Syria and Israel.”

                The study also said that water had always been one of Israel’s main motives for military operations.

                “Israel adopted the scheme to loot a high volume of Arab water in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, and since the aggression of June-June 1967 Israel is exploiting water in the occupied territories. Water has always been one of the most important motives that drives the strategy of the Israeli military.”

                Finally, the report called for consolidating Arab efforts to face increasing water challenges and to demand Israel to stop controlling Arab water resources if peace was to be achieved.

                “Israel controls Palestinian water resources”


                • #9

                  The world is running out of water and needs a radical plan to tackle shortages that threaten the ability of humanity to feed itself, according to Jeffrey Sachs, director of the UN's Millennium Project.

                  Professor Sachs, who is credited with sparking pop star Bono's crusade for African development, told an environment conference in Delhi that the world simply had "no more rivers to take water from".

                  The breadbaskets of India and China were facing severe water shortages and neither Asian giant could use the same strategies for increasing food production that has fed millions in the last few decades.

                  "In 2050 we will have 9 billion people and average income will be four times what it is today. India and China have been able to feed their populations because they use water in an unsustainable way. That is no longer possible," he said.

                  Since Asia's green revolution, which began in the 1960s and saw a transformation of agricultural production, the amount of land under irrigation has tripled. However, many parts of the continent have reached the limits of their water supplies. "The Ganges [in India] and the Yellow river [in China] no longer flow. There is so much silting up and water extraction upstream they are pretty stagnant," said Prof Sachs.

                  The US academic said that the mechanisms of shrinking water resources are not well understood. "We need to do for water what we did for climate change. How do we recharge aquifers? What about ground water use? There's no policy anywhere in place at the moment."

                  The US academic said that the rise of Asia was altering the world's resources in an unprecedented way - for the first time humans were shaping the environment rather than nature.

                  "China is on course to be the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide by 2010 in the world. India is building eight 4,000MW power plants - are they ready for carbon capture? I don't think so."

                  The British government has been trying to persuade a reluctant New Delhi to embrace green technology. Officials in India still talk about the need for accelerating growth and see tackling climate change as a brake on the economy.

                  David Miliband, the environment minister, said he was confident that the country would join a scheme for managing greenhouse gas emissions after the present Kyoto protocol runs out in 2012.

                  "India is already the fourth largest emitter [in the world]. It is already being affected by climate change and I have been encouraged to see that ministers here are engaging with the issue," said Mr Miliband.


                  • #10

                    Water experts have warned against the drying up of underground water of some countries including Algeria, underlining that the rapidly growing water crisis is to be more serious within the coming years.

                    French expert, Jean Marga, adviser of Unesco and World Bank, warns of a water crisis pointing out that we are facing decreasing water resources. He indicates that Algeria, as well as some Arab countries, is among the countries which are undergoing lack of water resources and reserves. A report issued in this context revealed that water resources are estimated at 43 000 bn cubic metres, of which 4000 bn are used per year. However, individuals aren’t benefiting from equal quotas. Some people in certain areas are getting 100 cubic metres / year whereas others are consuming 5000 cubic metres. Algeria is among the poorest countries in term of water resources, by 700 cubic m3 to 800 m3. One sixth of world’s population find it difficult to get water regularly, and 200 bn USD are to be provided over the coming 20 years to resolve this problem.

                    International reports unveiled that Arab countries are suffering from water scarcity, water experts disclosed that average consumption reach 500 m3/year, warning of sharp crisis to emerge within the next 15 years. The report, issued by Jean Marga, disclosed that Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Libya use 80% of subterranean water and warned that water reserves are being reduced in such a rapid manner that it will be depleted within a decade. Many countries use and abuse their underground water which cannot be recovered at the same rate.


                    • #11
                      Oceanside, CA— Algeria has never had enough water for its people. Since the Berbers first came here in 10,000 BC, provisioning daily life with clean water has been a constant struggle for this North African coastal country; centuries of drought and mismanagement have depleted ground water supplies and dam reserves to sub-critical levels. Today, many cities – including Algiers, have water systems that work only a handful of days out of each week. The World Health Organization considers a country “water stressed” at below an annual availability of 1,700 cubic meters of clean water per person – without immediate change, Algeria is predicted to drop to levels of less than 1,000 cubic meters by 2025. Desalination is a significant part of Algeria’s water solution – and Nitto Denko/Hydranautics is at the forefront of that effort, with over 26,250 SWC5 reverse osmosis desalination membrane elements coming online in Algerian desalination plants by 2008.

                      The Geida Consortium, made of up of Befesa CTA, ACS Cobra-Tedagua and Sadyt, chose Hydranautics’ SWC5 for new desalination plants at Skikda and Beni Safe – both are being built at strategic locations along Algeria’s Mediterranean coast. Together, these plants will produce over 300,000 m3/d (79 MGD) of potable water, a significant and life-improving reduction of Algeria’s potable water deficit – and a new chapter in the history of this thirsty nation.

                      The seawater composite SWC5 is designed to provide higher salt rejection at a higher rate of flow with increased boron rejection – 92%. The SWC5 is a cost saving solution for both municipal and industrial applications providing 30 m3/d (9,000 gpd) at 99.8% nominal salt rejection at low operating pressures.

                      Hydranautics’ SWC5 is part of a comprehensive line of desalination membranes that are used worldwide and produce an installed capacity of over 264 MGD (1,000,000 m3/day) with unparalleled operational success. This experience, combined with the best membrane performance in the industry, demonstrates Hydranautics’ position as the technology leader and as the preferred qualified supplier for seawater projects worldwide.

                      Over 26,000 of Hydranautics SWC5 elements selected for 2 Algerian projects


                      • #12
                        The 2nd International Colloquium on Water and Environment kicked off Tuesday (January 30th) in Algiers, drawing more than 200 national and foreign experts and scientists - including Algerian Water Resources Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, World Water Council President Loïc Fauchon and General Secretary of French Water Academy Jean-Louis Oliver. "Algeria is among the countries which provide important financial means for their water resources' development and management," Fauchon said in his opening speech. The government has allotted $14 billion to develop the sector - including the project to transfer 100,000 cubic metres of water from In Salah to Tamanrasset, a distance of 750km. The conference focused on evaluating the risks associated with the short- and long-term deterioration of the quality of water and environment.

                        Algiers hosts international colloquium on water, environment


                        • #13
                          LONDON, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Fleets of supertankers could one day ply the world's oceans laden not with oil but fresh water.

                          Sounds far-fetched?

                          In Paris on Friday the world's top climate scientists issued the strongest warning yet that human activity was heating the planet. They forecast temperatures would rise by between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees Celsius this century.

                          By 2100, water scarcity could impact between 1.1 and 3.2 billion people, says a leaked, related U.N. climate study due to be published in April.

                          China and Australia, as well as parts of Europe and the United States would face critical water shortages, it says.

                          Maritime experts say shipping water by tanker is one of the least eccentric ideas raised of late to counter acute shortages.

                          Dragging icebergs from the Arctic, ships hauling enormous bags of fresh water, and cloud seeding - in which clouds are sprayed with chemicals to induce rain - have all been aired by water authorities in the past.

                          "You can ship any liquid commodity if the money's right," said Bill Box, spokesman for Intertanko, the world's largest association of tanker owners.

                          Tankers would need to be specially coated for the water trade or built as a dedicated fleet.

                          In 1996, the World Bank's then water resources manager, John Hayward, said: "One way or another, water will be moved around the world as is oil now."

                          Water shuttle

                          Daniel Zimmer, executive director of the World Water Council in Marseille, said there was a real prospect that fleets of dedicated tankers could shuttle fresh water between countries.

                          But he saw it only being feasible for essential supplies of fresh drinking water and not for low grade agricultural water where the cost of freight would outweigh the benefits.

                          "We definitely see it increasing. We expect in the future and even in the short-term, before 2050, more frequent heatwaves and dry periods which could make shipping water economically justifiable," he told Reuters.

                          He said exporting water by sea was already happening between France and Algeria and Turkey and Israel.

                          He said countries with abundant water supplies like Norway, Russia and New Zealand could also begin to ship water more regularly.

                          "You could imagine countries north of the Mediterranean sea shipping fresh water to the south, the dry areas," Zimmer said.

                          Some water firms are already taking the prospect of shipping water seriously - last May, London's Thames Water investigated bringing water supplies by tanker from Scotland and Norway to solve emergency shortages due to drought.

                          Thames Water's Richard Aylard told the Times newspaper that alternatives had included towing icebergs from the Arctic and seeding rain clouds.

                          At the end of last year New Zealand firm Adsteam Agency proposed taking water by tanker to Australia when that country was suffering its worst recorded drought, shipping experts say.

                          In Australia, a firm called Solar Sailor is developing electric-hybrid supertankers powered by solar sails to carry water, according to its Web site.

                          The chairman of Solar Sailor, former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, has said the concept could solve Sydney's water crisis.

                          Capacity issues

                          Some question whether shipping supplies from countries rich in fresh water would provide a long-term answer.

                          "Tankers have been used to transport water in the past between islands, in places like the West Indies, but the issue here for the future is one of scale," said Peter Hinchliffe of the International Chamber of Shipping.

                          "A supertanker full of oil can supply a city far longer than one full of water," he said.

                          For existing oil tanker owners the international shipping of water could hold an unexpected silver lining.

                          Responding to a series of high-profile oil tanker disasters the U.N. International Maritime Organization in 2003 accelerated a time-table to retire single-hulled oil tankers.

                          The final deadline for their elimination is 2015. But such pollution issues wouldn't apply if they were carrying water.

                          "Maybe this is great news for the phase out of ageing single-hulled tankers between 2010-2015," said Intertanko's Box.

                          "If anyone is serious about transporting water in tankers then they should be looking at single-hulled tankers because there will never be a cheaper source of ship," Box said.

                          Tankers may ship water to parched cities of future


                          • #14
                            The close relation between war and natural resources is of long standing. What else was colonial conquest about? Vast estates held by the Dutch East India Company came under direct control of the Crown as did the lands conquered by the British East India Company. What was in demand in Europe dictated the commodities produced and the natural resources that were ripped from the earth. European violence set the terms on which resource extraction occurred. There was no free trade for mutual benefit based on comparative advantage. There were few constraints on the violence employed in the extraction of resources starting with the “shock and awe” of bombardments and fire storms of wars of conquest and followed by the pitiless subjugation of people of color. Having defeated the locals in battle the invaders suborned local elites and customs to extract resources from those they had conquered.

                            The form of the exploitative relationships with particular colonial and neocolonial overlords depended in large measure on the local traditions and social structures the invaders found. The Spanish used the Inca mita system of requisitioned labor for the mines where the subjugated died by the thousands from brutality and, as in the case of the vast silver mines of Potosi, by mercury poisoning. The crushed ore was mixed with mercury and trodden by the workers with their bare feet and then heated producing poisonous vapors. King Leopold murdered millions in the Congo employing slavery, terror, maiming, and mass killings because it was his view that “the colonies should be exploited, not by the operation of a market economy, but by state intervention and compulsory cultivation of cash crops to be sold to and distributed by the state at controlled prices.” (1)

                            The Belgians ruled through Tutsi chiefs promoting them to a superior status over the Hutus and imposed compulsory cash crop demands through their Tutsi intermediaries. After independence Tutsi military dictators were left to rule. The animosities created provided the fear and hatred which led to genocide decades after independence. In the post-independence states without indigenous capitalism, but with only a comprador class, control of state revenues and natural resources were the major sources of wealth. After independence, control of the army and the power to coerce, following the colonial model, became the norm in many new nation states. In the struggles which broke out after independence and frequently under Cold War pressures it was often the most violent and ruthless elements willing to do whatever was necessary to gain control who came out on top — especially where there were easily exploitable resources to be appropriated and make those commanding them rich beyond imagining. The new nation’s economy remained entwined with that of the former colonial power. More democratically inclined indigenous leaders could be coerced and assassinated. Sponsored civil war and military coups could be employed to maintain access on favorable terms to resources.

                            Resource extraction in the contemporary era continues to spur extremes of violence and war. In a 1997 study Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner examined the economic performance of ninety-five countries between 1970 and 1990. (2) They found the higher a country’s dependence on natural resource exports the slower their economic growth rate. Paul Collier and co-authors analyzed fifty-four large-scale civil wars that occurred between 1965 and 1999 and found that a higher ratio of primary commodity exports to GDP “significantly and substantially” increases the risk of conflict. (3) High levels of oil dependence correlate especially strongly. Timber it turns out is also “technologically suited to rebel predation,” as with the Khmer Rouge. Researchers find the phenomenon of “war booty futures” where outsiders back rebel groups in exchange for a future share of the takings—a prospect which features heavily in Richard K. Morgan’s powerful dystopic novel Market Forces.

                            It should be pointed out that when we speak of wars in the last third of the twentieth century we are talking about civil wars. Between 1965 and 1999 if we look at those wars in which more than a thousand people were killed a year, there were seventy-three civil wars, almost all driven by greed to control resources — oil, diamonds, copper, cacao, coca, and even bananas. Collier and Anke Hoeffler find countries with one or two primary export resources have more than a one-in-five chance of civil war in any given year. (4) In countries with no such dominant products there is a one in a hundred chance. In these civil wars more than 90 percent of casualties are civilians. At the start of the twentieth century war casualties were 90 percent soldiers. Such “traditional” wars are rare today. Resource wars with their devastating impacts on civilians have become the norm.

                            Indeed, the oil rich countries of Africa — Nigeria, Gabon, the Sudan, the Congo, Equatorial Africa, and Chad — have long histories of coups, military rule, and strongmen. Millions have died of hunger and disease as a result of wars over oil, diamonds, copper, and other resources as armed rebels steal, rape, and murder making life-generating economic activity difficult if not impossible. In the Congo, one of the resource richest countries on the planet, a half dozen countries have armies deployed and countless rebel groups have fought to control rich deposits of gold, diamonds, timber, copper, and valuable cobalt and coltan in what is often referred to as “Africa’s First World War.” Global Witness reports that despite being the fourth largest oil producer in Africa, Congo Brazzaville has overseas debt of $6.4 billion as a consequence of Elf Aquitaine, the former French state oil company’s strategy of influence peddling and bribery.

                            In Angola, Joseph Savimbi, backed by foreign powers from the Cold war, amassed a reported $4 billion from diamonds, ivory, and other resources sold abroad in his decades of looting and brutality before he was killed. In Angola a million people died in the civil war, one child in five does not live to its fifth birthday, and 40 percent of Angola’s population has been displaced. Almost none of the income from the state-owned oil company found its way to Angola but was instead diverted to overseas banks. It was the wholesale looting of Angola’s oil revenues that fueled that country’s vicious civil war.

                            Africa bleeds because of its abundant wealth. Charles Taylor privatized the resources of Liberia by selling rights to resources to foreign companies and pocketing the money. There is the case of Dafur in the oil rich Sudan. There is Nigeria, exceedingly rich in oil and corruption, where foreign aid is badly needed. The environment of the Niger Delta is being destroyed, and people are killed by army thugs protecting Shell oil. Equatorial Guinea is a criminalized state which receives half a billion in oil revenues. Because of this, it ranks sixth in the world in per capita income but third from the bottom in the UN’s human development index table. a third of the population has been killed or driven into exile. The revenues of the Cameroon-Chad pipeline operated by Exxon-Mobile, with additional investment from ChevronTexaco, do not help the people of the area who remain among the poorest of the poor as the natural wealth of their land is looted.

                            Wherever there are resources to be plundered we find foreign companies ready to cooperate; often there is the World Bank to put a smiley face on these atrocities, claiming things would be worse if they did not supervise the corruption. The reality of the bank’s role however is quite different. Emil Salim, a former Indonesian environment minister who led the World bank Extractions Industries Review, has written, “The bank is a publicly supported institution whose mandate is poverty alleviation. Not only have the oil, gas and mining industries not helped the poorest developing countries, they have often made them worse off.” (5) That is from the man the World Bank chose to review its past practices. He points out that scores of academic assessments as well as the bank’s own reports correlate corruption, civil war, and growing poverty with reliance on extractive industries, comparing unfavorably with the performance of more diversified economies.

                            While the cases I have mentioned focus on the relationship between resources and war in Africa, Salim’s own country is also an example of this relationship. Indonesia can be seen as analogous to a nineteenth-century empire. The central government exploits the territories, especially those rich in resources, along lines similar to what was done by the Europeans. Jakarta conducts a dirty war in Aceh, its northern province rich in natural gas and rife with civilian killings and disappearances. The Indonesian state has waged a campaign of terror and near genocide in oil and natural gas rich East Timor. Exxon-Mobil is the largest long-term investor in Indonesia. The foreign owned gold and copper mines of Irian Jaya, where miners die while working or are killed by security forces and the environment is devastated making life difficult for the province’s people, are an international scandal. In West Papua logging companies with close ties to the military have terrible reputations as well for using force against locals as they displace tribal people from their land and destroy the local ecosystem. The atrocities carried out by the military and the government in pursuit of revenues from their resources frequently require the cooperation of foreign transnationals and are supported by World Bank project aid.....


                            • #15

                              Ted Koppel, writing in the New York Times (February 24, 2006), responded to what he described as the Bush administration’s “touchiness” about the charge that we are in Iraq because of oil by stating the obvious, though often unsaid, truth, “Now that’s curious. Keeping oil flowing out of the Persian Gulf and through the Strait of Hormuz has been bedrock American foreign policy for more than half a century.” Today control over the world’s oil supply is at the forefront of Washington policy makers’ thinking, even if the president and his team deny any such intent and talk publically of reducing dependence on Middle East oil by three-quarters of present levels, an absurdly impossible goal. Two-thirds of the oil in the world is in the Middle East, much of it under Iraq and Iran, the axis of oil, the current targets of the U.S. war on terrorism. Control of oil is integral to Washington’s official goal of world domination, a goal stated this baldly in national security documents.

                              During the administration of the first President Bush, the Pentagon under then defense secretary Dick Cheney produced a strategy paper stating the mission of “convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests.” The United States would defend their interests for them and so the policy was to “discourage them from challenging our leadership or seeking to overturn the established political and economic order.” (6) Control of the world is facilitated through control of essential resources. By controlling the world’s energy, and in the presence of its overwhelming military superiority, the United States is potentially able to deny the lifeblood of any society and intimidate and coerce the world more effectively, a design going back easily to Henry Kissinger, and earlier to the emergence of U.S. global power at the end of the Second World War, but now carried to new heights by the neoconservatives.

                              Hegemony has always been a bipartisan consensus. With regard specifically to the Middle East we have the Carter Doctrine: “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” Since Carter created the Rapid Deployment Force with this intervention in mind the United States has moved to forward positioning, the establishment of a huge permanent military presence in the region, including a number of multi-billion dollar bases in Iraq, huge fortified cities with all the comforts of home, fast food places, video stores, and car rental agencies for the soldiers who garrison the empire along “the arc of instability.” All of this takes place in territories which coincide with the parts of the Global South where oil is found. That the official rationale is now the war on terrorism in place of anticommunism is secondary to the continuation of the basic policy of world domination.

                              Michael Klare, author of Resource Wars and Blood for Oil, cites British defense secretary John Reid’s warning that climate change “will make scarce resources, clean water, viable agricultural land even scarcer” and so “make the emergence of violent conflict more likely.” (7) In the United States, too, military planners and the CIA spin out scenarios of wars for desperately needed natural resources and the need to deal with the mass migrations of desperate people as entire societies disintegrate. Climate change, these forecasts suggest, will bring on new and even greater resource wars. The United States with its overwhelming advantage in all things military is likely to see saber rattling, shock, and awe as the best responses. “When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” seems the appropriate metaphor for the petro-political situation. Some Americans, afraid of not being able to heat their homes and fill the tanks of their gas guzzling cars, may unthinkingly offer support for new foreign adventures — but Iraq has shown such oil comes at a high cost in blood and treasure.

                              It seems it is not all that easy to shock, awe, invade, and occupy countries. In the spring of 2006, 60 percent of Americans told the Gallup Poll that they did not think it worth going to war in Iraq and 74 percent disapproved of Bush’s handling of gasoline prices. They saw neither victory nor an easy exit and they had become suspicious that higher energy prices seemed to accompany such adventurism. Some worried about the U.S. balance of payments and some even knew that energy costs equaled a third of the trade deficit. Before the war, Lawrence Lindsey, then Bush’s senior economic adviser, suggested the war would cost $200 billion. He was sacked soon thereafter by an administration that insisted the war would cost $50–60 billion. Current estimates by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz are in terms of trillions of dollars.

                              The relationship of demand and supply of oil is complicated. It takes up to ten years and billions of dollars to get a new field into production. Refineries also take time to build and are hugely expensive. The present shortage of gasoline, often seen as a conspiracy by the oil giants, is in the main the result of rising demand especially from China and India, and supply shocks due to political events such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and uncertainty over the Bush administration’s intentions toward Iran and perhaps other producer states. When oil prices spiked in the 1970s the supply response was so great that the price of crude collapsed by 1986. In the 1990s demand growth was slow, no new fields were developed to increase production levels, and even so the price collapsed again in 1998–99. This is not to say that huge profits were not made by the Western oil companies as well as OPEC and the banks which recycled petro-dollars. Since then there has been little excess capacity—in 2005 the world’s excess capacity was 2–3 percent. It had been 15 percent in 1986.

                              Those who would deny even the possibility of any conspiracy point out that the international oil companies have complete control over only 7–8 percent of global crude oil and access to perhaps 20 percent of reserves. They are therefore unlikely to have conspired to produce today’s high energy prices. This is a cyclical industry and conjunctural events are responsible for most oil spikes. Events such as Vice President Cheney’s remarks during a visit to Lithuania in the spring of 2006 when he criticized Russia for using oil and natural gas as “tools of intimidation and blackmail,” and the intense negotiations to build pipelines for oil and natural gas from Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, or Uzbekistan without going through Iran or Russia, serve to illustrate that global market shares for particular companies are not the most crucial factors in understanding oil as a weapon.

                              It is analysis rather than an apology for Big Oil that tells us that the situation has changed since the end of the Second World War when the so-called seven Sisters dominated the world oil market. Today Exxon-Mobil produces less than 3 percent of world output and the seven largest oil companies control less than 5 percent of world reserves. This does not mean that Exxon-Mobil is not the world’s most valuable and most profitable company nor that the oil giants do not benefit from high oil prices. They do however face more sophisticated national oil companies from China, India, Brazil, and elsewhere who compete for supply which is increasingly under the control of state-controlled producers. The seven largest national oil companies, like Kuwait Petroleum, Abu Dhabi National Oil, Algeria’s Sonatrach, and the more familiar Saudi Aramco, hold at least half the world’s proven resources and account for a quarter of current production. (8) Like Venezuela’s national oil company, which fuels Chavez’s Bolivarian revolution, they have changed the distributional equation nationally as well as globally.....


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