By Tom Engelhardt
April 16, 2008
It’s strange that the business and geopolitics of energy takes up so little space on American front pages — or that we could conduct an oil war in Iraq with hardly a mention of the words “oil” and “war” in the same paragraph in those same papers over the years. Strange indeed. And yet, oil rules our world and energy lies behind so many of the headlines that might seem to be about other matters entirely.
Take the food riots now spreading across the planet because the prices of staples are soaring, while stocks of basics are falling. In the last year, wheat (think flour) has risen by 130%, rice by 74%, soya by 87%, and corn by 31%, while there are now only eight to 12 weeks of cereal stocks left globally. Governments across the planetary map are shuddering. This is a fast growing horror story and, though the cry in the streets of Cairo and Port au Prince might be for bread, this, too, turns out to be a tale largely ruled by energy: Too many acres turned over to corn (and sugar cane) for the creation of biofuels; a historic drought in Australia and other climate-change-induced extreme! s of weather — a result of the burning of fossil fuels — that have affected crop yields; and many new middle-class consumers, in China and elsewhere, coming on line, with a growing desire for meat, the production of which is heavily petroleum based.
From resource wars to oil wars (the subjects of his last two books), Michael Klare, Tomdispatch’s energy expert, has long been ahead of the curve when it came to ways in which our planet was being reshaped at the most basic level. Today, he offers Tomdispatch readers a peek into some of the key themes in his staggering new book, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy. If you want to grasp the true shape of our shaky world, of where exactly we’ve been and where we might be going, this is a book not to be missed. It offers the profile-in-formation of a shape-shifting planet, a planet in transition and on a road to nowhere pretty. Check out as well, the latest Tomdispatch brief video (produced by TD’s Brett Story) — in which Klare discusses key issues in his new book — by clicking here. Tom
The End of the World as You Know It
…and the Rise of the New Energy World Order
By Michael T. Klare
Oil at $110 a barrel. Gasoline at $3.35 (or more) per gallon. Diesel fuel at $4 per gallon. Independent truckers forced off the road. Home heating oil rising to unconscionable price levels. Jet fuel so expensive that three low-cost airlines stopped flying in the past few weeks. This is just a taste of the latest energy news, signaling a profound change in how all of us, in this country and around the world, are going to live — trends that, so far as anyone can predict, will only become more pronounced as energy supplies dwindle and the global struggle over their allocation intensifies.
Energy of all sorts was once hugely abundant, making possible the worldwide economic expansion of the past six decades. This expansion benefited the United States above all — along with its “First World” allies in Europe and the Pacific. Recently, however, a select group of former “Third World” countries — China and India in particular — have sought to participate in this energy bonanza by industrializing their economies and selling a wide range of goods to international markets. This, in turn, has led to an unprecedented spurt in global energy consumption — a 47% rise in the past 20 years alone, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE).
An increase of this sort would not be a matter of deep anxiety if the world’s primary energy suppliers were capable of producing the needed additional fuels. Instead, we face a frightening reality: a marked slowdown in the expansion of global energy supplies just as demand rises precipitously. These supplies are not exactly disappearing — though that will occur sooner or later — but they are not growing fast enough to satisfy soaring global demand.