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The Dictation of Oil in the United States Past and Future Power Relations

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The dictation of oil in the United States Past and Future Power Relations:

An estimate of its future.

Lily Alldridge

The University of Sydney


The dictation of oil in United States Past and Future Power Relations:

An estimate of its future.

In order to estimate future power relations within the United States (US), an analysis of past and present power relations is fundamental. The struggle for Natural resources and Energy Security has existed explicitly in the minds of the US during the past and present. Oil has become an increasingly tangible representation of power in the 21st Century. The presence of resource wars, and other decisions carried out by the US government have been plagued by the objective to obtain oil and, in turn, wealth, power and economic security. This essay will discuss the role that oil rich areas like the Persian Gulf have played in past and current power relations arguing that, in turn, all future power relations will stem from what happens in these areas. Alternative answers to future power relations that have stemmed from past and current events will finally be put forward. Ultimately it will be stressed that oil will inevitably control all future US power relations.

National security and natural resources for energy consumption combine to create a definition of energy security. The essentiality for cheap natural resources like oil create significant venerabilities in national security and in turn, power relations that have become 'fuelled' by this knowledge. Threats to energy security include the political instability of several energy producing countries, the manipulation of energy supplies, the competition over energy sources, attacks on supply infrastructure, as well as accidents, natural disasters, the funding to foreign dictators, rising terrorism, and dominant countries reliance to the foreign oil supply (Taylor. 2008).

Sequential industrialisation of human groups have increased this demand for raw materials. Since emergence in the 1850s, industrialised societies have become dependant on fossil fuels to obtain wealth, power and security. Sir Halford Mackinder - a key thinker in geopolitical strategy - included the Caspian Sea in his said 'pivot' area, in his lecture "The Geographical Pivot of History" in 1904. This proved to be an accurate analogy, spoken of during a period marked by the shift from steam, coal and iron to electricity, gas and most importantly, oil. Oil production became essential, OIL AS A DICTATOR FOR FUTURE POWER RELATIONS 3

and Baku became a major objective for industrialised states. Baku experienced a series of strikes in 1904 and 1905, awakening the world with the realisation that conflict in oil rich areas could effect oil supply (Foster. 2008). Assuming major geopolitical importance in World War I, "The primary task of the allies [Turkey and Germany] is to invade the important oil regions of the Caucasus." (Hayward. 1941. p38). Proclaiming days after the Armistice by Lord Curzon that the allies had "floated to victory on a wave of oil." (O'Hara. 2004. p140) Capturing Baku was again, a central idea in the minds of political powers during World War II (WWII). Instilling oil as both a weapon of warfare in itself, central to Hitler's Russian campaign to capture the Caucasian oilfields, aiming to deprive the Soviet's of fuel. Also, as a means of economic power, to ensure Germany secured its own supplies (Buchan. 2002). This solidified and enhanced the importance of oil for all powers increasingly post WWII.

Peaking Norwegian oil production in 2001 and the United Kingdom's peak in 1999 encouraged urgency in the quest for oil in the USA especially. "Almost all of these new [oil] fields have already reached peak production." (Simmons. 1999. p43) The threat of diminishing oil supplies prompted real and frantic worry within the US government. "When someone who is the head of U.S oil policy call you and [say 'shit'] about five times in 20 seconds, this is so much worse than what they've warned you about." Simmons (1999) stated upon speaking to President Bush's first cousin after discussion with assistant Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson. With peak oil production in the Persian Gulf hypothesised to be reached by 2021, the US articulated that they had "special responsibilities for preserving worldwide energy supply" as the "only superpower." (Foster. 2008. p14)

"Ever since Churchill converted the Navy to the use of oil in 1911, British politicians have seemed indeed to have a phobia about oil supplies being cut-off, comparable to the fear of castration." Hugh Thomas refers to British behaviour during the 1956 Suez crisis. This "castration syndrome" creates a significant contrast (Thomas. 1959). The hysterical oil insecurity that has


manifested in consuming states is mirrored by the rise of "resource nationalism" on the part of oil producing states.

The US now imports 60% of what it produces and consumes. The importance recently placed on energy security can be understood when considering the vast changes in the US economy from 1950 - 2004. In 1950, the US were associated strongly with self-sufficiency. They were the world's foremost oil producers and exporters, as well as being the largest exporter of manufactured goods and the world's foremost creditor nation. This changed dramatically in the 21st Century, becoming the world's foremost oil importer, debtor nation and importer of manufactured goods and non-petroleum resources. Dick Cheney highlighted the US's blatant need for oil in 1999, "there will be an average of two percent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead, along with, conservatively, a three percent natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day." (This is



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