Michael Klare on Oil, Geopolitics, U.S. Energy, and the Middle East Crisis
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The Collapse of the Old Oil Order:
How the Petroleum Age Will End
Michael Klare | March 3, 2011

Whatever the outcome of the protests, uprisings, and rebellions now sweeping the Middle East, one thing is guaranteed: the world of oil will be permanently transformed. Consider everything that's now happening as just the first tremor of an oilquake that will shake our world to its core.

For a century stretching back to the discovery of oil in southwestern Persia before World War I, Western powers have repeatedly intervened in the Middle East to ensure the survival of authoritarian governments devoted to producing petroleum. Without such interventions, the expansion of Western economies after World War II and the current affluence of industrialized societies would be inconceivable.

Here, however, is the news that should be on the front pages of newspapers everywhere: That old oil order is dying, and with its demise we will see the end of cheap and readily accessible petroleum -- forever.

Ending the Petroleum Age


WATCH: An interview with Michael Klare, conducted by MEF Executive Director Sut Jhally, about the relationship between U.S. energy policy and the Middle East uprisings. 22 mins. (3/5/2011)

Let's try to take the measure of what exactly is at risk in the current tumult. As a start, there is almost no way to give full justice to the critical role played by Middle Eastern oil in the world's energy equation. Although cheap coal fueled the original Industrial Revolution, powering railroads, steamships, and factories, cheap oil has made possible the automobile, the aviation industry, suburbia, mechanized agriculture, and an explosion of economic globalization. And while a handful of major oil-producing areas launched the Petroleum Age -- the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Romania, the area around Baku (in what was then the Czarist Russian empire), and the Dutch East Indies -- it's been the Middle East that has quenched the world's thirst for oil since World War II.

In 2009, the most recent year for which such data is available, BP reported that suppliers in the Middle East and North Africa jointly produced 29 million barrels per day, or 36% of the world's total oil supply -- and even this doesn't begin to suggest the region's importance to the petroleum economy. More than any other area, the Middle East has funneled its production into export markets to satisfy the energy cravings of oil-importing powers like the United States, China, Japan, and the European Union (EU). We're talking 20 million barrels funneled into export markets every day. Compare that to Russia, the world's top individual producer, at seven million barrels in exportable oil, the continent of Africa at six million, and South America at a mere one million.

Read more on TomDispatch.com . . .


Michael Klare on DVD: Blood & Oil

The notion that oil motivates America's military engagements in the Middle East is often disregarded as nonsense or mere conspiracy theory. In Blood and Oil, bestselling author and Nation magazine defense correspondent Michael T. Klare challenges this conventional wisdom and corrects the historical record. The film unearths declassified documents and highlights forgotten passages in prominent presidential doctrines to show how concerns about oil have been at the core of American foreign policy for more than 60 years -- rendering our contemporary energy and military policies virtually indistinguishable.

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