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Is energy fascism coming? The global energy race and its consequences

Is energy fascism coming? The global energy race and its consequences

By Michael T. Klare

It has once again become fashionable for the few followers of Bush's Iraq war to emphasize the danger of "Islamo-fascism" and the supposed intention of the followers of Osama Bin Laden to establish a monolithic Taliban regime - a "Caliphate" - stretching from Gibraltar to Indonesia.

It has once again become fashionable for the few followers of Bush's Iraq war to emphasize the danger of "Islamo-fascism" and the supposed intention of the followers of Osama Bin Laden to establish a monolithic Taliban regime - a "Caliphate" - stretching from Gibraltar to Indonesia.

The president himself has used this term on a few occasions (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/11/20051114-3.html), using it to describe the efforts of Muslim extremists to create an "empire totalitarian that suppresses all political and religious freedom. " Although there may be hundreds, or even thousands, of deranged and suicidal individuals who share this illusory vision, in reality the world faces a more substantial and universal threat, which could be termed energy-fascism, or the militarization of the global struggle for ever dwindling energy sources. Unlike Islamo-fascism, energy-fascism will sooner or later affect every person on the planet closely.


Either we will be forced to participate or finance foreign wars to secure vital sources of energy, such as the current conflict in Iraq; or we will be at the mercy of those who control energy sources, such as the customers of the Russian energy monster in Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia (http://www.gazprom.com); Or, sooner rather than later, we will find ourselves in a state of constant survival, for fear of consuming more than our allotted share of fuel, or engaging in the illicit energy trade. This is not just a delusional nightmare of the future, but a potential reality whose basic characteristics, largely unnoticed, are developing today.

These include:

* The transformation of the US military into a global oil protection service, whose primary mission is to defend overseas sources of crude oil and natural gas, while patrolling the world's major oil and gas pipelines and providing other routes.

* Russia's transformation into an energy superpower with control over major Eurasian oil and natural gas supplies and its determination to turn those assets into growing political influence over neighboring states.

* A ruthless race between the great powers for the remaining oil, natural gas and uranium reserves of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, accompanied by recurring military interventions, the constant installation and replacement of clientelistic regimes, systemic corruption, and repression, and the continued impoverishment of the vast majority of those who are unfortunate enough to live in energy-rich regions.

* A growing interference by the State in, and surveillance of, public and private life as a corollary of the increased dependence on nuclear power, thereby bringing with it a growing threat of sabotage, accidents and the diversion of fissile materials into the hands of nuclear propagators illicit.

Taken together, this and related phenomena constitute the basic characteristics of an emerging global energy-fascism. Although they may seem crazy, they all share a common characteristic: a growing involvement of the state in obtaining, transporting and allocating energy supplies, accompanied by a greater inclination to use force against those who resist the priorities of the state in these matters. As in classic twentieth-century fascism, the state seeks to assume greater control over all aspects of public and private life in pursuit of what, they say, is the fundamental national interest: the acquisition of enough energy to keep it running. of the economy and the management of public services (including the army).

The Demand / Supply Puzzle

Powerful trajectories, with the potential to alter planetary trends, do not occur in a vacuum. The rise of energy-fascism can be extrapolated to two predominant phenomena: an imminent clash between energy supply and demand, and the historical shift of the center of gravity of planetary energy production from the north to the south. Over the past 60 years, the international energy industry has been quite successful in satisfying the world's ever-growing thirst for energy in all its forms. When this thirst refers to oil exclusively, global demand jumped from 15 to 82 million barrels per day between 1955 and 2005; an increase of 450%. World output increased by a similar amount in those years.

Total demand is expected to continue to grow at this rate, if not faster, in the coming years - driven largely by strong growth in China, India and other developing nations. However, there is no hope that global production can continue to advance at the same rate. Rather the opposite: a growing number of experts believe that global (liquid) crude growth will peak only in 2010 or 2015 - and then begin to decline irreversibly (http://www.peakoil.net). If this is the case, no amount of Canadian tar sands, shale oil, or other "unconventional" sources will prevent a catastrophic liquid fuel shortage within a decade, generating widespread economic trauma. Global demand for other primary fuels, including natural gas, coal and uranium, is not expected to contract so rapidly, but all of these materials are finite and will eventually become scarce. Coal is the most abundant of the three; if it continues to be consumed at current levels, it is likely to last only 150 more years. Although if it is used to replace oil (compared to various processes of transformation from coal to liquid) it will disappear much more quickly.

This, of course, does not take into account the disproportionate contribution of coal to global warming; if there is not a change in the way power plants burn, the planet will be uninhabitable long before the coal mines are extinguished. Natural gas and uranium will outlive oil for a decade or two, but they too will eventually hit a production cap and begin to decline. Natural gas will simply disappear, like oil; Any future shortage of uranium can be overcome to some degree by greater use of "regenerative reactors" that produce plutonium; This substance can, in turn, be used as jet fuel in its own right. But any increase in the use of plutonium will greatly increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation, making the world a much more dangerous place and a corresponding requirement for increased government oversight of all aspects of nuclear production and trade. Such prospects for the future are generating great anxiety among officials in the major energy-consuming nations, especially the United States, China, Japan, and European powers.

All of these countries have undertaken major energy policy revisions in recent years, and they have all come to the same conclusion: market forces can no longer be relied upon to meet essential national energy needs, so the state must assume increasing responsibilities to carry out this task. This was, for example, the main conclusion of the National Energy Policy adopted by the Bush administration on May 17, 2001 (http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy) and slavishly followed ever since; similar is the official position of the Chinese communist regime. When they encounter resistance to such attempts, furthermore, government officials only exercise the power of the state more regularly and with a tougher hand to achieve their objectives, be it through commercial blockades, embargoes, arrests and confiscations, or the open use of government. strength. This is part of the explanation for the emergence of energy-fascism.

This emergency is also being caused by the changing geography of energy production. At one time, most of the world's major sources of oil and natural gas were located in North America and European sectors of the Russian Empire. This was not accidental. Major energy companies preferred to operate in hospitable countries that were close at hand, relatively stable, and little inclined to nationalize private energy stores. But these deposits have been depleted and the only areas still capable of meeting the growing world demand are in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The countries in these regions were until recently under the colonial yoke and harbor a deep mistrust of foreign participation; many of them are also home to ethnic separatists, insurgents or extremist movements that make them especially inhospitable to foreign oil companies.

Oil production in Nigeria (http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/Nigeria/Background.html), for example, has been sharply declined in recent months by an insurgency in the impoverished Niger Delta (http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0307/p04s01-woaf.html). It has been run by members of poor tribal groups who have suffered terribly from the environmental consequences of oil company operations, while receiving little tangible benefit from the resulting profits; most of the income that remains in the country is appropriated by political elites in Abuja, the capital. Combining this kind of local resentment with a lack of security and often weak governments, it is hardly surprising that the leaders of the major consuming nations have taken these matters into their own hands - establishing preventive oil deals with compliant local officials and providing military protection, where needed, to ensure safe deliveries of oil and natural gas.

In many cases, this has led to the establishment of relationships forged by oil, of the patron-client type, between the main consuming nations and their most important suppliers, similar to those that the North American protectorate has over Saudi Arabia and those that it has recently created. with Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilham_Aliyev). We already have the beginnings of the energy equivalent of the classic arms race, along with many of the elements of the "Great Game" that colonial powers once participated in in some of the same parts of the planet. By militarizing the energy policies of consuming nations and increasing the repressive capabilities of client regimes, the foundations for a fascist-energy world have been laid.

The Pentagon: A Global Oil Protection Service

The most significant expression of this trend has been the transformation of the US military into an oil protection service (http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=1888) whose main function is to monitor overseas energy sources as well as its global distribution systems (pipelines, oil tankers, and routes). This main mission was first articulated by President Jimmy Carter in January 1980, when he described the oil flow in the Persian Gulf as a "vital interest" for the US, and also stated that this country should employ "any whatever means necessary, including military force "to confront any attempt by a hostile power to block this flow. When Carter issued this edict, immediately dubbed the "Carter Doctrine", the US did not yet possess any force capable of fulfilling that role in the Gulf (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carter_Doctrine). To fill that gap, Carter created a new entity, the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF), a set of forces designated for deployment in the Middle East (http://www.centcom.mil / sites / uscentcom1 /)

In 1983, President Reagan transformed the RDJTF into Central Command (Centcom), a name that still remains (http://www.centcom.mil). Centcom exercises authority over all US combat forces deployed in the Persian Gulf area including Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. Currently, Centcom is primarily concerned about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has never renounced its original role as guardian of the oil flows of the Persian Gulf, in line with the Carter Doctrine (http://www.nytimes.com/ 2007/01/14 / weekinreview /).

The greatest danger to Persian Gulf oil appears to come from Iran, which has threatened to cut off all crude shipments passing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz (the narrow passage at the mouth of the Gulf) in the event of a North American air strike. about its nuclear facilities (http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=92161). In anticipation of such a move, the Pentagon has recently ordered additional naval and air forces in the Gulf and replaced Centcom Commander -General John Abizaid, a supporter of diplomatic engagement with Iran and Syria (http://www.centcom.mil/sites/ uscentcom1 /) - by Admiral William Fallon (http://www.pacom.mil/leadership/j0/j0bio.shtml), chief of the Pacific Command (Pacom) and an expert in naval and air operations (http: // www .thenation.com / doc / 20070122 / klare). Fallon arrived at Centcom just as President Bush, in a televised address on January 10 (http://www.columbian.com/news/APStories/AP01142007news92474.cfm), announced the deployment to the Gulf of an additional battle group. and he warned of tough military action against Iran if it did not stop its support for insurgents in Iraq and its uranium enrichment policy.

When it was enacted in 1980, the Carter Doctrine targeted primarily the Persian Gulf and its surrounding waters. However, in recent years, US politicians have concluded that the United States should extend this type of protection to every oil-producing region of the developing world. The logic of a Carter Doctrine on a global scale was spelled out in a bipartisan task force report "The Geopolitics of Energy," published by the Center for International and Strategic Studies (CSIS) in November 2000 (http: // www.csis.org). Because the United States and its allies have increased their energy dependence on unstable overseas countries, the report concluded that "socio-political risks in relation to energy availability do not appear to diminish."


Under these circumstances, "the United States, as the world's only superpower, must accept its special responsibilities to protect access to the world's sources of energy." This kind of thinking - adhered to by both Republican and Democratic leaders - seems to have governed US strategic thinking since the late 1990s. It was President Clinton who put this policy into effect, extending the Carter Doctrine to the Caspian Sea basin. It was Clinton who originally declared the flow of oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to the west to be a priority for American security, and who, on this basis, established ties with the governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. President Bush has forged those ties - which was the preparatory phase for the permanent presence of the US military in the region - but it is important to see this as a bipartisan effort in keeping with the shared belief that protecting the world's oil sources it is, increasingly, not only one of the vital functions of the American army, but its vital function.

More recently, President Bush has extended the reach of the Carter Doctrine to West Africa, now one of America's leading sources of oil. Particular emphasis has been placed on Nigeria, where unrest in the Delta (which contains most of the country's onshore oil fields) has caused a substantial decline in crude production. "Nigeria is the fifth largest supplier of oil to the United States," noted the State Department Prosecutor, and the State Department's Foreign Operations 2007 budget was justified in front of the congressional budget office declaring, "an interruption of the Supplying Nigerian oil would represent a major blow to the US oil security strategy. " To prevent such a situation, the Department of Defense is provisioning the Nigerian army and internal security forces aimed at quelling the violence in the Delta region (http://allafrica.com/stories/200605251026.html); The Pentagon is also collaborating with regional Nigerian forces in a patrol and surveillance effort that seeks to improve security in the Gulf of Guinea, where most of West Africa's offshore oil and gas fields lie.

Of course, top officials and foreign political elites are reluctant to recognize such motivations for the use of military force - they prefer to speak of the spread of democracy and the fight against terrorism. But every now and then some hint of the true energetic foundation of these convictions comes to the surface. Especially revealing is a November 2006 Council on Foreign Relations task force report entitled "The National Security Consequences of US Energy Dependence" (http://www.cfr.org). Co-chaired by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and former CIA Director John Deutsch and backed by an elite of nerdy politicians from both parties, the report loudly extolled the usual clichés, destined to be ignored, about energy efficiency and conservation, but later counterattacked by repeating the militaristic tone announced in the 2000 CSIS report (which Schlesinger also co-directed): "various normal operations by regionally deployed American forces [presumably Centcom and Pacom] have made important contributions to improving the energy security, and the continuity of such efforts will be necessary in the future. The US naval protection of the sea lanes through which oil is transported is of paramount importance. "

The report also called for reinforcing the US navy's engagement on the Nigerian Gulf of Guinea coast. When such ideas are expressed, American politicians often take an altruistic stance, claiming that the United States is doing a "social good" by protecting the world's sources of oil on behalf of the world community. But this arrogant altruistic stance ignores crucial aspects of the situation.

* First, the United States is the main consumer of gasoline, swallowing one of the four barrels of crude consumed daily on the globe.

* Second, the pipelines and sea lanes - protected by American soldiers and Marines who risk their lives for it - are for the most part oriented towards the US and close to its allies, such as Japan and the NATO countries.

* Third, US military forces abroad often specifically protect US corporations with overseas operations, again with the risk that this entails for the military personnel involved.

* Fourth, the Pentagon is itself one of the world's largest fuel consumers - in 2005 it consumed 134 million barrels of crude, the same as Sweden.

So, while it is true that other countries may obtain some benefits from the activities of the US military, the main beneficiaries are the American economy and its gigantic corporations; The main losers are the American soldiers who risk their lives every day to protect oil pipelines and refineries, the poor in those countries, who perceive little or no benefit from the extraction of their natural resources, and also the environment as a whole.

The cost of this operation, both in blood and treasure, is enormous and continues to rise. First of all, there is the war in Iraq, which must have broken out for various reasons, but ultimately cannot be separated from the historic mission, designed by Carter, to eliminate any potential threat to the free movement of oil from the US. Persian Gulf. An attack on Iran could also be for multiple reasons, but ultimately it should be linked to this very mission - even if it had the perverse effect of cutting off crude supplies, raising the price of energy and sending the world economy into a tailspin. And there will surely be more wars around oil after this one, with more Americans injured and more casualties from American missiles and bullets. The cost in dollars will also be higher. Even if the Iraq war is excluded, the US spends about a quarter of its defense budget, about $ 100 billion per year, on the Persian Gulf and other related expenses - the approximate annual price for the implementation of the Carter doctrine. One might wonder what percentage of the approximate trillion dollar cost of the war in Iraq should be added to this account (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11880954/), but surely we are talking, at the very least , out of hundreds of billions of dollars with no end in sight.

The protection of pipelines and shipping routes in the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Gulf of Guinea, Colombia, and the Caspian Sea regions adds an additional billions to this account. These costs will snowball into the future, when the US is predictably more dependent on energy from the southern hemisphere, when resistance to western exploitation of its wells grows, when the energy race between emerging China and emerging countries accelerates. India, and when America's foreign policy elites begin to rely even more on the military to overcome this resistance. Eventually, escalating these costs will require higher national taxes or lower social benefits, or both; at some point, the growing need for a manpower to defend all those overseas oil fields, refineries, gas pipelines, oil pipelines, and shipping shipping lanes would mean the resumption of military recruitment.

This will generate widespread domestic resistance to these policies - and this, in turn, could trigger the repressive kind of crackdown on the government that would cast an even darker shadow of energy-fascism over our world.

* Michael T. Klare is a professor at Hampshire College and the author of the book Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Oil. Translation for www.sinpermiso.info: Camila Vollenweider


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