A recent Pentagon analysis of the world’s supply of oil foresees dark days ahead – a lot fewer traffic jams – and the potential for armed confict with China over black gold.
The Defense Department has officially accepted the idea of Peak Oil, a concept of energy depletion stubbornly resisisted by the kind of people who think no government regulation, no national energy strategy and the marketplace alone will be the salvation that keeps our lights on and our cars and trucks moving.
This isn’t about taking sides on global warming, offshore drilling, nuclear power or alternative energy. This is the Pentagon warning that regardless of where it comes from, there’s a growing danger that we aren’t going to have enough energy to power our economy or our national defense within the next five years.
The Pentagon’s dire forecast is contained in the latest “JOE.” The “JOE’ is the Joint Operating Environment, a periodic analysis by the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) of global politics and trends which impact U.S. military operations now and in the foreseeable future. The JOE foresees serious energy troubles ahead for America through severe oil shortages brought about by Peak Oil, an analysis of the world’s supply of petroleum energy first proposed in 1956 by Shell Oil geologist M. King Hubbert. He reasoned the earth has an unknown but finite amount of recoverable oil. Once we pass the peak of recovery in the so-called Hubbert Curve, oil-based energy will become increasingly scarce and costly. It was an idea quickly dismissed by skeptics who continue to deny the concept. Last October Newt Gingrich called Peak Oil a “myth” in an opinion piece. “The problem is that peak oil is fundamentally wrong,” Gingrich wrote. The Pentagon disagrees.
The most recent JOE analysis cites Peak Oil as a basis for potentially massive oil shortages by 2015. “By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day,” the Joint Forces Command wrote. Our military analysts are unimpressed by the political palaver about offshore and wilderness drilling on the Right and alternative energy innovation on the Left. “The potential of future energy supplies nearly all present their own difficulties and vulnerabilities. None of these provide much reason for optimism,” the JOE states.
Newt Gingrich may not believe Peak Oil is real but the Chinese do. They’ve embarked on a desperate global search for oil deals to fuel their industrial economy. It was recently announced that China has loaned economically-beleaguered Venezuela $20 billion for development. The loan will be repaid in crude oil.
In 2007 Brazil discovered massive new offshore oil deposits and the Chinese were right there to do a deal with Petrobas, Brazil’s state-owned oil company. In addition to Venezuela and Brazil, the Chinese have oil investments in Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Cuba.
Last month Chile’s Santiago Times ran a think-tank piece headlined: “China Eyes Venezuelan and Brazilian Oil.” The article subhead posed this question: “Should Uncle Sam Be Alarmed By China’s Poaching In Its Own ‘Backyard’?”
The Pentagon’s JOE answers the question by speculating the rabidly anti-American regime of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez may pursue “anti-American activities on a global scale with the likes of Iran, Russia and China, in effect creating opporunities to form anti-American coalitions in the region.”
It is likely that most people in this country have forgotten China’s failed attempt to buy Unocal of California five years ago. They probably don’t know China has overtaken the U.S. as the biggest customer for Saudi Arabian oil. China’s strengthened oil ties to Iran get little media attention and China’s $4.6 billion stake in Canada’s oil shale project has been underreported.
Africa has become another hot zone for oil competition and the Pentagon is worried. “The presence of Chinese ‘civilians’ in the Sudan to guard oil pipelines underlines China’s concern for protecting its oil supplies and could portend a future in which other states intervene in Africa to protect scarce resources. The implications for future conflict are ominous,” the JOE says.
Ominous indeed. It’s not coincidental that the Pentagon created a new Africa Command in late 2008. Take a guess as to which other “states” might intervene against China in Africa over oil. Who has the means and motivation to go to war with China over oil if the nation’s survival depends on it?
Unless China secures enough oil to feed the voracious appetite of the Dragon, the Peoples Republic faces economic collapse and a depression. A depression in China would mean a depression worldwide. The Department of Defense worries about that, too. “One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest,” the JOE report warns. The Peak Oil deniers should take note.