"This world is currently precariously close to utilizing all of its available oil-production capacity, raising the chances of an oil supply crisis with more substantial consequences than seen in three decades."
This comes from the forward of a document entitled, "Strategic Energy Policy: Challenges for the 21st Century," sponsored by the non-partisan Baker Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations. These guys are terrified: "[T]he United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma, suffering on a recurring basis from the negative consequences of sporadic energy shortages."
They go on to state that these consequences are likely to include recession, social dislocation of the poor and a need for military intervention. But the impending war with Iraq is not about oil, right?
The Wall Street Journal reported that oil industry executives from ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips and even Dick Cheney's baby Halliburton met with Cheney's staff to discuss the rehabilitation of the Iraqi oil industry once Saddam is disposed of. Guess who the favorite is for contracts worth up to $1.5 billion? (I'll give you a hint: It starts with an H and already controls the East Asian oil pipeline that runs through Afghanistan.) The Journal continues by stating, "With oil reserves second only to Saudi Arabia's, Iraq would offer the oil industry enormous opportunity should a war topple Saddam Hussein."
The prospects of an Iraq without the "butcher of Baghdad" have resulted in bouts of unrestrained glee throughout the business press. To choose a telling example, Fortune magazine alerted its readers that "Sending the troops into battle abroad has often signaled a great buying opportunity. ... A war could cause the price of crude, now about $26 a barrel, to spike to $40 or higher, driving up the stocks of big oil companies such as ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco."
However, not everyone in the business community is excited about the feast that follows the butcher's removal. The London Guardian reports that "the BP [British Petroleum] chief executive, Lord Browne, said last year that he was putting pressure on Mr. Bush and Tony Blair not to allow a carve-up." And the Moscow Times writes that "Russian oil companies, including No. 1 LUKoil, have long feared they might lose their competitive edge in Iraq to richer U.S. oil giants should a successful military strike lead to Saddam Hussein's ouster."
"So we come to this report's central dilemma," the Strategic Energy Policy explains. "The American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience." So, while oil reserves are running out, social disintegration erupts in Venezuela as well as other OPEC nations, and Congress busily undermines fuel efficiency legislation, the Bush administration seeks to feed this addiction of "plentiful and cheap energy" that the Baker Institute insists we have.
The silver lining for the Bush team, however, can be found in the same report. "The real costs [of current energy policy], such as the high-cost U.S. military presence in the Middle East, are already accepted and forgotten by the public."
This was written just before Sept. 11, 2001, a fact that should give us pause.