Many believe a key reason the US invaded Iraq was to control more Middle Eastern oil, as neither weapons of mass destruction nor serious links to Al-Qaeda were found. While Iraq increases its oil production, will US firms like Exxon Mobil benefit from the trillion+ dollars of tax money and the lives lost during the war and occupation? We’ll see.
A more recent conflict raises the specter of energy wars again. There is an enormous risk that nations’ dependence on energy as consumers or as revenue sources may ignite open warfare for resource control. With current oil prices, the commodity makes up a multi-trillion dollar chunk of the global economy. And since world transportation is more than 90% dependent on oil, a lack of the stuff can bring an economy to a halt. The recent Russian incursions into Georgia alters the control of Caspian oil routes to the West through major pipelines. The Caspian has been and is projected to be one of the key sources of growth in global oil production while other regions like the North Sea and Mexico decline. Russia’s current President, Medvedev, was a leader of the largest natural gas firm in the world, Gazprom, showing close ties between that nation-state and its key energy firms. If Russia controls the Caspian flow, then they can negotiate higher priced contracts with their customers in Europe and elsewhere.
And if we let the energy situation get further out of hand, future conflicts worldwide could be exacerbated by importer or exporter nations who fight proxy or direct wars in energy producing regions to gain greater negotiating power for their contracts. This nexus between resource scarcity/volatility and war shows even further benefits for demand reduction and renewables substitution to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Today’s theme: A sustainable energy future is a crucial ingredient for peace.