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Oil becoming more than just pricey Oil becoming more than just pricey

By David Paul Brown
Article Launched: 04/17/2008 01:00:00 AM PDT

It’s become boilerplate that the United States must ween itself off petroleum, at least where gasoline is concerned. Three salient points are to help the environment, stop us from trading with some in the Middle East who don’t wish us well and create jobs in the new green economy of alternative fuels. However a fourth factor is alarming. Increasingly oil and natural gas are being traded for nuclear weapons and related technology. This bodes well for no one.

Monday NPR’s “Fresh Air” hosted author Michael Klare, who’s written “Rising Power, Shrinking Planet.” He explained that 1/3 of Iraq’s oil is sold on the black market and the degree of corruption is astronomical. That’s what much of the fighting in Basra has been about. Will the black market be run by the newly formed and weak Iraqi govt., Muqtada al Sadr’s Shia army or other militia(s)? The largest natural gas producers are Russia, Iran and Qatar respectively with Qatar as the only U.S. friend. The other three big petro players are Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan who surround the Caspian Sea. Until alternative fuels can be produced in great amounts and at reasonable costs, the world runs on oil and would come to a standstill should it fall into the hands of the wrong people.

The Caspian Sea is the next bonanza in oil. Steve LeVine’s book, “The Oil and the Glory” states “The Caspian Seas deposits earned an early almost mythic reputation. Marco Polo’s was perhaps the first written account. He reported a gusher that in a single hour produced a quantity of oil sufficient to fill up 100 vessels.” The United States, Russia and China are all courting the old Soviet Republics to cut deals with them. In Russia’s case, ex-President Vladimir Putin both armed them and threatened them, especially if they dealt with the US in a friendly fashion. The word is that the Russian president elect, Dmitri Medvedev, is a handpicked puppet of Putin’s and Putin will be the defacto leader.

Putin and Iran have forbidden Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to install a pipeline crossing the Caspian in order to pump oil and gas to Europe as doing so may tilt the geopolitical balance toward the West. The Russians supply Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan with arms in hopes that they’ll tell the US to abandon their bases and influence pedaling in the region.

It’s almost as if the Cold War has returned. The United States, Russia and China are all vying to control the world’s oil, and using the oil producing counties like figures in a chess game. We know we need to curb our use but the political will has been weak. Russia is awash in cash due to their new found oil reserves but they can still use more of both. The Russians want to re-establish themselves as major players, not the third world country they’d become before the Berlin Wall fell. China’s soaring economy is at it’s zenith, with cities like Shanghai looking increasingly like the West and a bonafide Chinese middle class emerging. But the Chinese govt. is not only killing and jailing people in Tibet, they sell arms to the most heinous of killers in Darfur, Sudan, the Jangaweed.

The U.S. military has employed a strategy called “African Command” Klare says. It’s attempting to stop the Chinese from having too much influence in Africa as well as stopping the killing in Darfur. The Chinese are buying oil, diamonds and minerals at a rapid clip in exchange for helping African countries build an infrastructure, but also selling them arms.

Russia sells nuclear technology to to Iran and missiles to Hezbollah to keep the tension in the Middle East stirred up and oil prices high. These oil prices are helping the average Russian live better than ever, which is why Putin is so esteemed. The Russians like the Chinese, are experiencing shelves actually stocked with food and supplies and people with money in their pockets for the first time. The downside for Russians is ex-KGB Putin is harassing the press, like the days under communist rule, only with a friendlier face. Rather than take you out and shoot you, they now may just buy your company or put you out of business by threatening people to shop there. Friendlier face indeed.

The question is with the Russians selling oil and natural gas and gaining more liquidity and with the Chinese growing in economic stature and clout, where do we stand on the world stage? Ironically, while we welcome these two countries using the entrepreneurial spirit that helped make the US and other Western democracies what they are, do we secretly wish they were maybe not quite as rich and powerful as the United States?

You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Globalization is here to stay and mostly it’s a good thing. Still the idea of more cash floating about, perhaps purchasing nuclear arms and the supporting technologies is frightening. One can easily cook up a scenario where a either a terrorist gets a hold of a nuke or a rogue country controls much of the world’s oil. That brings us to the fact that whether it’s a McCain, Obama or Clinton administration, they need to deftly repair the bridges and relationships burned by the Bush administration. Of utmost importance is bringing our allies back into the fold. We cannot and should not try to go it alone again, especially at the barrel of a gun.

Diplomacy is paramount because according to LeVine, the future petro giants won’t be companies like Exxon, Shell, Chevron or British Petroleum. They’ll be countries like Venezuela, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. The former two don’t like us, the third we have a business relationship with, but they are as thuggish and misogynist as any country.

The last one we’re trying to forge a relationship with, but we have to fight for their imprimatur and blessing because next door neighbor Russia has other plans. It’s a bit daunting no? and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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