Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Follow the pipeline: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Follow the pipeline: South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Follow the pipeline

By Jim Mullins
Posted December 28 2004
The recent presidential campaign revolved around many issues, but the elephant in the room -- the prospect of wars without end to maintain U.S. control of the world's oil supply -- was ignored.

Shell oil physicist M. King Hubbert predicted in 1954 that U.S. oil production would peak in the early 1970s. Dismissed as a crackpot theory, his prediction was right on the mark. Despite exhaustive prospecting with new and advanced technology, U.S. production began its inexorable decline from 11.6 million barrels per day then to 9 mbd now, with consumption increasing to 20 mbd.

Oil production has peaked subsequently in other major producing countries: Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Indonesia, as well as the North Sea region.

Soon after, in 1973 and again in 1979, the U.S. suffered oil shortages, mile-long gas lines, lack of heating oil and the realization that oil was finite and not to be wasted. President Carter called for raising mileage standards on motor vehicles and more efficient use of energy in all its forms. He declared the Persian Gulf a U.S. national security priority, for the largest known untapped oil reserves were there.

Americans have enjoyed a constant suppy of oil at unrealistically low prices since then -- but at a hidden military expense: U.S. forces guard oil installations and pipelines in Colombia, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. The U.S. Navy patrols the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, South China Sea and other supply routes. U.S. bases line the shores of the Arabian peninsula, supporting undemocratic and repressive regimes favorable to U.S. interests.

A constant increase in demand of 2 percent a year requires a 6 percent to 7 percent increase in new discovery to offset the increase plus the decline in the major producing regions. The latest discoveries have been in the Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. The Cold War's end brought a potential gas and oil bonanza in landlocked countries around the Caspian Sea. The U.S. moved in quickly to acquire bases in the area and negotiate leases and contracts.

The problem was transportation to the most profitable markets in India and China, whose markets are driving the worldwide upsurge in oil and gas consumption. The first choice was through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.

It is interesting that Afghanistan was never put on the State Department terrorist list, although it was headquarters for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida.

U.S. negotiations with the Taliban took place during both the Bush and Clinton years. Afghanistan's elected president, Hamid Karzai, and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Kalilzad, an Afghan-American, in the 1990s were Houston employees of Unocal, the contractor, and engaged in the unsuccessful talks.

In the Bush administration, a Taliban representative who brought a present of a fine carpet to a Washington negotiating session in July 2001 was reportedly threatened with "accept our carpet of gold or you will receive a carpet of bombs."

A neocon think tank, Project for the New American Century, had published a report in 2000 about the necessity to secure Caspian and Iraqi oil and cited "a new Pearl Harbor" that could ignite the fuse for military action. U.S. plans to depose the Taliban in Afghanistan were in place in conjunction with the Afghan Northern Alliance when 9-11 obliged.

In a few short months -- before Afghanistan was secure and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida had been eliminated -- the Bush administration activated its plan for an invasion of Iraq, using deception to build public consensus. Its first priorities revealed its true motives -- takeover of oil export facilities, destruction of ministries except for oil and the hiring of mercenaries to guard pipelines.

It's now apparent that the Bush administration's Afghan invasion had two purposes, one laudable and unfinished -- the destruction of al-Qaida -- and the other for the site of a Central Asian pipeline. And also obvious, the "war on terror" invasion of Iraq was based on fabrication rather than the reality of consolidating U.S. control of Middle Eastern oil.

Fossil fuels are on the way to rapid depletion. Immediate conservation with available technology and development of alternative renewable energy in the immediate future -- not endless war for oil -- should be American policy.

Jim Mullins is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C., and a resident of Delray Beach."

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