Eric Le Boucher, the resident (neo-liberal) economist of Le Monde wrote his most recent Saturday column about peak oil. I barely had the time to enjoy the fact that peak oil was even mentioned as such (and given an appropriate definition: the moment when oil production will start to inexorably decline) that the column moved in a totally unexpected direction: the only apparent problem with peak oil is that it has given the idea to oil producing governments that oil is - gasp - a weapon, and that they are going to use for unconscionable policy goals.
Meanwhile, the FT tells us that "US military sees oil nationalism spectre".
Adapted from a European Tribune story.
Sadly, writes Le Boucher, nationalist policies by governments that closely control national oil companies and use them for 'ugly' geopolitical purposes (read: hostile and/or detrimental to Western oil majors) play against their populations and ultimately make them poorer (he bizzarely gives the examples of Venezuela, whose production, according to him, dropped by 48% since 1998 - the real number is less than 10%, from 3.2 to 3 mb/d, and Iran, whose production, he says, has dropped from 7mb/d to 4mb/d - when its production was 3.6mb/d in 1998).
He makes his own the suggestion by Mandelson (the EU Commissioner for trade and a close associate of Blair) to have oil subject to OMC rules and arbitration, which would prevent it from being used for political purposes, and concludes, grandly:
L'or noir verrait sans doute son beau statut dégradé mais ce serait in fine protéger les pays producteurs, lisez les peuples, des sottises glorieuses du nationalisme.
Black gold would lose its importance, but that would end up protecting producing countries, and their peoples, from the follies of nationalism.
Yes, the best way to protect poor countries from the corrupting effects of oil wealth and power is for them to give up that power, and hand it over to the Western companies.
No mention that we might need to reduce our consumption. No mention that it is our own wasteful habits that put us in the position to depend on oil producing countries and hand them that purported power over us. No mention that the money is actually being spent to a large extent (like in Venezuela and Russia) on the helathcare and education of the poor in these countries. No mention that we have been exploiting these countries for decades, interfered in their internal affairs for just as long, encouraged corruption and graft, so long as the oil flowed to us, and never care about their populations.
And now that oil is scarce, and the balance of power has changed, we go holier-than-thou on them? Give me a break.
Same attitude from the US military, as reported in the FT:
Future supplies of oil from Latin America are at risk because of the spread of resource nationalism, a study by the US military that reflects growing concerns in the US administration over energy security has found.
An internal report prepared by the US military's Southern Command and obtained by the Financial Times follows a recent US congressional investigation that warned of the US's vulnerability to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's repeated threats to "cut off" oil shipments to the US.
The Southern Command analysis cautions that the extension of state control over energy production in several countries is deterring investment essential to increase and sustain oil output in the long term.
"A re-emergence of state control in the energy sector will likely increase inefficiencies and, beyond an increase in short-term profits, will hamper efforts to increase long-term supplies and production," the report said.
Now, it's natural for the army to worry about these things; it is actually a threat to our current way of life; but (i) if our reaction is shaped by the army, it's likely to include some form of violence (which does not seem to work), and (ii) why don't they even think about discussing how our way of life is set up and how it could be made less vulnerable - by, you know, wasting fewer resources that we need to get from elsewhere?
WHAT THE FUCK IS NEEDED FOR OUR LEADERS AND PUNDITS TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE SOLUTION IS NOT TO PRODUCE MORE OIL, BUT TO USE LESS?
And European leaders and pundits seem to be just as clueless as American leaders and pundits on this.