Back in the late 20th century there were predictions that the 21st century would be characterized by resource wars where fighting breaks out between countries and aligned groups of countries, as they scramble to secure increasingly scarce commodities for themselves, principally oil and water. Barely had we entered the new century when a major resource war began, with the big surprise being that it was not some banana republic suddenly deciding to invade and loot its neighbor's territory, but instead the most powerful country on earth muscling its way around an entire region on the other side of the planet in order to position itself to plunder its oil resources en masse for itself.
I want it all, I want it now - but then what? - most projections show Peak Oil to be occurring about now, or to be imminent.
We have all heard about Peak Oil, which is oil production peaking and then tailing off gradually, due to finite supplies dwindling and remaining reserves being increasingly difficult and costly to both find and extract. The timing of the peak depends on who you listen to but is supposed to occur anytime between a couple of years ago and about 2020 - 2030, but in any event we are historically speaking close to it, and now, with the world population continuing to expand and booming demand from up-and-coming economies with massive populations like China and India, steadily increasing demand for oil is colliding with relatively fixed or even declining supply. The result of this can only be rising prices, which will continue to rise until demand moderates sufficiently to bring about a rebalancing of supply and demand. The big problem with oil is that it is so central to everything and still so incredibly cheap in relation to the energy it supplies and its sheer usefulness, that prices will have to rise to much higher levels before demand is choked off sufficiently to bring about an enduring state of balance between supply and demand - only in the case of severe global recession resulting in a big reduction in economic activity would this upward price pressure abate, and that, of course, is exactly what a continued steep rise in the oil price may bring about.
The United States, more than any other country, is an economy dependant on an abundant supply of cheap oil. The per capita use of oil in the US vastly outstrips that of most countries in the world, the two principal reasons for this being that the infrastructure of the country has been developed on the assumption that cheap oil will continue indefinitely, and the other reason is that taxes on gasoline are held are much lower levels than in many other nations for political reasons. Back around the middle of the last century the big oil companies in the US, with the collusion of government, set out to intentionally destroy the public transport system in the US, in order to force the population to use automobiles more and thus burn more gas netting more profits for oil companies, and they were largely successful in achieving this objective. For the same reason they also encouraged massive urban sprawl and the development of suburbia, so that millions of people have to drive huge distances to get to work - a reason why gas taxes have to be held at much lower levels than in other countries such as Great Britain, where they are exorbitantly high. Clearly, if affordable gasoline disappears, then the countless vast tracts of suburbia in the US will become middle class ghettoes. Once you grasp the implications of this you will immediately comprehend why the United States is particularly aggressive about access to oil supplies and will stop at nothing to secure them. The United States is structured geared to the profligate consumption of oil and would collapse without it.
Aren't we lucky to be alive now, instead of in AD1000 or 3000.
The oil and gas reserves of the planet, which took millions of years to form, have been and are being plundered and burned up recklessly in the space of a mere one to two hundred years. Like greedy children cramming a sudden bonanza of chocolates and sweets into their faces until they have nothing left, individuals - and corporations and governments - have selfishly and thoughtlessly squandered this precious resource without any regard for the needs of future generations. You only have to look around you at the vast volumes of largely unnecessary traffic - businessmen flying halfway across the world to sign a paper, holidaymakers taking a four hour flight to lay on a sunbed in a gated compound and read for a week, commuters who drive for an hour or two to get to the office and whose work will be viewed by future historians as being of considerably less value than the energy they consumed in getting to their workplace. The scale of unnecessary consumption and sheer waste is mind-boggling, and, of course, it cannot and will not continue indefinitely. Once the energy that took millions of years to form and only two hundred years or so to burn up is gone, it's gone. The day of reckoning will be upon us and human beings who have bred like flies on the back of this bonanza will face starvation by the hundreds of millions or billions if substantive measures are not taken in time to make good the energy shortfall by means of other fuels. This will be hard luck for the victims but great news for the planet which is groaning under the strain of unimaginable hordes of human beings projected to reach about 11 billion by the year 2050. Alternative energy sources such as wind and water power, which take a lot of energy initially to create and install, may not be available in sufficient quantity or in time to fill the massive void - it is thought to be only Uranium that has a realistic chance of meeting the enormous energy needs. We are now starting to feel the first winds of this energy - food maelstrom with sharply rising global food prices, caused in part by rising oil prices, already putting a huge strain on the world's poor, many of whom are on the verge of starvation, if not actually starving.
As we entered this unique century, the greatest economic and military power in the world, the United States, still basking in the glory of facing down and defeating the Soviet Union, had the choice of getting together with the other nations of the world and arriving at a common and equitable agreement regarding how to apportion and parcel out the world's dwindling fossil fuel energy supplies in the coming decades. Instead of taking this enlightened route it has decided instead to adopt the primitive me first approach and has embarked on an old-fashioned campaign of colonial conquest, with a few sycophants in tow such as Britain hoping to get a piece of the action. This is, of course, very bad news for the planet, not just because of the colonial powers' plans to make off with most of the pie, but because of the vast misuse of resources required to secure a disproportionate share of the pie in the first place, which has involved considerable death and destruction, including a lot of Iraqi civilians and US servicemen. How you view the invasion of Iraq depends entirely on your perspective - if you are an Iraqi citizen who has lost family members you might fairly view it as a disaster, if you are family of a dead US serviceman you might be very sad, but proud that your young man died defending his country from terrorists, if you are an ecologist you would likely be dismayed at the destruction and pollution, such as the leveling of the town of Fallujah and the peppering of areas of the country with depleted uranium, if you have any humanitarian inclinations at all you might be upset by the routine ill-treatment of prisoners and the destruction of the society and way of life of the country, if you are Jewish you might be delighted that one more Arab country has been neutered, if you run a company that supplies skilled mercenaries and technical people you will be rubbing your hands together with glee at all the extra profits rolling in, if you are a senior oil company executive you will be popping champagne corks at the prospect of vast new reserves waiting to be exploited. Perhaps the greatest irony is that the typical suburban commuter in the US who was all for the war a few years back to smoke out and kill those goddamned terrorists is now against it because of the enormous cost and the material damage suffered by the army, not least the dead and injured soldiers. Yet, if you were to sit down and calmly explain to these average folk that the invasion of Iraq has secured such vast oil reserves for the United States, that they will be able to continue their long commute for many years to come and quite possibly continue their profligate lifestyle, their faces would suddenly light up and they would exclaim that the invasion probably wasn't such a bad idea after all. If Bush came clean and went on television and explained all this in an open and honest way, millions of voters would suddenly adore him and petition Congress to amend the Constitution to allow him to serve a third term and he would doubtless be voted back in a landslide victory.
We know that the US defense budget, already enormous as the century started, has ballooned to gargantuan levels, exceeding the military budgets of every other country in the world combined. The reasons for this are not just the resource wars already underway, but the massive increases are also a preparation for squaring up to China and Russia with the intention of forcing them into submission at some point in the future. We would also be remiss in not pointing out the inclination by numerous US congressmen to sluice vast sums of government money and contracts in the direction of their numerous cronies in the defense and oil industries as an important factor in escalating the defense budget. The corn-methanol industry in the US, which apparently uses more fossil fuel energy in its creation than you get back in energy from the finished product, is growing as quickly as it is because members of government are unwilling to say no to the powerful corn lobby in the mid-west, who are in many cases their constituency. This industry, which diverts food into the production of fuel, is a contributing factor to rising global food prices, and gives a big 2-fingered salute to the world's poor.
The major resource war currently underway involves the United States and its acolytes forcibly invading and taking control of those countries in the Mid-East that are not already client states, which the aim of completely controlling the Mid-Eastern oilfields. The invasion of Afghanistan, which does not have much oil, was a strategic geopolitical move. The invasion of Iraq was designed to secure a major prize, as Iraq is sat on the world's second largest oil reserves. That only leaves Iran, which will prove to be a tougher nut to crack, more about which later, and Syria, which will be a cakewalk, and doesn't have much oil and so is of limited interest anyway. A by-product of these military adventures is the elimination or at least neutering of Israel's enemies. Should the masses rise up and overthrow their feudal overlords in Saudi Arabia, then it may become necessary to invade that country too. Of course, it wouldn't have looked good to the electorate back home if one day George Bush had gone on television and announced Hey, the world's running out of oil, and so you can continue to drive around in your SUV's and zig-zag around the country on airplanes, we are going to invade Iraq and take their oil. So they had to come up with something that would make it more palatable, hence the absurdly named War on Terror which sounds goofy but is good enough for the masses. The War on Terror is a crude deception, a fig leaf, designed to provide a façade behind which to conduct a good old-fashioned war of colonial conquest. The only reason it is not questioned more in the mainstream media is that the government controls the mainstream media and they do as they are told. You had to have a reason for the War on Terror, something to lend it some credibility, and that reason was provided by the catastrophic events of September 11th 2001.
Turning now to Iran, this is the only remaining significant country in the Mid-East that is not already either a client state of the United States or big western oil multinationals, like Saudi Arabia or the Gulf states, or already subject to military occupation. It is not in compliance, and can therefore expect to be forcibly dealt with at some point in the future. If it had no oil, and was not perceived to be a potential threat to Israel, it would perhaps be left alone, but it does have oil and Israel, at least, perceives it to be a threat.
Now, it is known that Bush and Cheney would like to finish the job and complete their hat trick of 3 invasions before they leave office - Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, but unfortunately the US military has been so worn down by the attrition of Iraq that it is presently in no state to mount a sustainable invasion of Iran. Furthermore, it makes sense to take the time to digest the gains already made before moving on to the next campaign. This will involve straightening out the security situation in Iraq, at least regarding the protection of US military personnel and the oil company operatives who are waiting in the wings to exploit the territories' oil wealth. Then the military can regroup and prepare themselves for pastures new. In the meantime the easy option of heavy bombing of Iran, designed to weaken it militarily and neuter it economically, with the aim, sooner or later, of moving in to seize at least the south-western corner of the country, where the vast bulk of Iran's oil is located, remains on the table. The eventual aim is thought to be to gain control of the country as part of the long-term strategic goal of surrounding Russia, possibly by subverting the government and installing a US-friendly puppet regime, along the lines of the color coded governments such as the orange one in the Ukraine - a new Shah of Iran perhaps?
Even though an attempted invasion of Iran before the November elections is considered most unlikely, for logistical reasons, a bombing campaign remains a possibility. With regard to the timing of this we must look to the mainstream media for clues. The public mind must be prepared to accept such an operation, with clustered news items to the effect that Iran is responsible for attacks on US troops, on The Green Zone, and for arming the insurgents etc.
The consequences of a bombing campaign by the US, and possibly Britain and Israel on Iran are somewhat unpredictable, to say the least, but one thing we can fairly sure of and that is that the price of oil will spike spectacularly. The price has already been climbing steadily for weeks, which may even be due in part to anticipation of such an attack, and a major supply disruption will send it through the roof.
Technically, the oil price has arrived at the top of its long-term uptrend channel, and in the absence of military action against Iran in the near future, or a buildup towards the same, it looks set to react back across its trend channel or at least consolidate for a while. Traders and investors in crude oil and oil stocks should however remain aware of the risk of an attack, which if it does take place can be expected to cause a dramatic spike. Gold and silver would also spike in consequence.
According to their logic the US elites have good reason to feel pleased with themselves following the successful takeover of Iraq, even if the general public in the United States is unable at this stage to grasp what a glorious achievement it is. Iraq is known to have over 100 billion barrels of oil reserves. In addition to this the country is still relatively unexplored and there are an estimated 200 to 300 billion barrels more waiting to be discovered. Given that this is largely light crude, the most valuable type of oil, it doesn't take much effort of the imagination to figure that US forces have seized control of one of the world's greatest treasures, whose value dwarfs the cost of the invasion. The invasion of Iraq would therefore be a strong contender for an entry in the Guinness World Records as the greatest act of piracy in the history of the world. It makes the exploits of Blackbeard and Captain Jack Sparrow look decidedly tame. With this being election year in the US, various politicians try to curry favor with the voters by talking about bringing the troops home. So let's be clear about this - the troops are not coming home until the infrastructure has been built to fully exploit Iraq oil resources, and to this end to partition off the local population who might otherwise interfere with production. In fact, a background level of violence is actually desirable at this time, in order to provide the excuse to keep the troops there. We should also not overlook the reality that the US elections are pure spin anyway, a charade. The United States is not a democracy and has not been for a long time. Its political system is a duopoly of power, with the same plutocratic forces controlling both the Democrat and Republican parties, the election being a 4-yearly circus to fool the masses into thinking that they live in a democracy. In one sense democracy is an absurd concept anyway - how can you allow ignorant, uneducated people the same vote as intelligent, discriminating people? The answer is that that you can - and then you program them to do what you want them to anyway via their favorite entertainment and media inputs. If you spend an hour of your time going down to the polling station to vote, you have just wasted an hour of your life, except that it can be amusing to watch the other fools wasting their time lining up - thinking that they are going to make a difference.
Complete control of the Mid-East, which the United States and the major oil companies are now close to having achieved, of course confers massive power over the rest of world, in particular over rising economic powers such as China and India and the immense leverage that this will in time afford can be used to steer these countries in whatever direction is desired. The US is believed to be involved in a strategic race against time to corner the bulk of the world's remaining oil reserves, the control of which can then be used to dissuade countries like China from resorting to the wholesale dumping of dollars or US Treasuries, along the lines of Try it and we'll cut off your oil supply, which one would expect to be couched in more diplomatic language. Because of its gargantuan levels of debt the US is acutely vulnerable now, but with time it plans to tip the scales back in its favor partly by sales of its recently acquired plunder. Anyone who has watched those David Attenborough nature programs about seal colonies on beaches will know that the US is like the beach master, the huge bull elephant seal, taking possession of all of the females on the beach and jealously guarding them, while China and Russia are the other strong contenders, who don't quite have the strength or size to try to assert dominance and as a result can only make gains when the beach master suffers some drastic reversal of fortune. The irony is that China now has the power to stop the US in its tracks, by dumping its vast dollar and Treasury holdings, which would send the US economy straight over a cliff, but it is unlikely it will do this because it can't stomach the consequences to itself or its people of doing so.
There are those who believe that the multinational oil companies and US interests will not be left in peace in Iraq to reap the fruits of their exploits. What these people don't understand is that in order to make it possible to develop Iraq's oil infrastructure and actually ship out the oil in quantity an apartheid system will be created across the country, which is scheduled to be partitioned and balkanized. The indigenous people will largely be confined to their towns and cities and specific rural areas and ruled over by the US installed puppet government - they won't be allowed anywhere near the oil installations, which will be run mainly by imported technicians and service personnel. The country will essentially be run as an oilfield, with the original inhabitants being marginalized and viewed as incidental. The infrastructure for this system of control is currently under construction and as it approaches completion the vulnerability of US and coalition military personnel and consequent casualties will decrease significantly.
This is a long article, and it is therefore important to conclude by focusing on the most important points.
1. The resource wars of the 21st century are now well underway, with the US and Britain leading the charge in the Mid-East, behind the façade of the War on Terror. The goal is complete control of the Mid-East oilfields, which will be achieved by a combination of the already existing client states such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and the forcible acquisition of remaining oil rich countries. Logic dictates that the next country to be appropriated will be Iran, and although they would like to take in addition the oil rich countries around the Caspian Sea, an attempt to do so would result in a direct confrontation with Russia, so instead they will bide their time and likely attempt to subvert these countries politically.
2. Peak Oil is upon us, or very close at hand. The combination of rising population and strong increase in demand for oil from developing countries such as China and India, coupled with inelasticity in demand for oil, at least on the downside, is likely to force a continuing uptrend in the price of oil, although this may be mitigated once Iraq is brought on stream in a big way.
3. As the oil price is an underlying component of the price of food, the price of food is likely to continue to rise, a situation that will be exacerbated by the recently fashionable and rather bizarre practice of turning food into fuel. This can be expected to lead to widespread unrest and possible anarchy in many poorer countries.
4. The seizure of Iraq is widely perceived to be have been a blunder. From the strategic standpoint of the US elites it was no such thing. The oil reserves contained within Iraq are gigantic, and thus its acquisition was a major economic and security leap forward for the United States. In addition its central position within the region and the earlier acquisition of Afghanistan make the eventual appropriation of oil-rich Iran an almost foregone conclusion. In comparison with the US strategic planners, those in the European Union are hopelessly naïve and ineffectual - they can't even organize the trash collection in Naples.
5. The United States is desperately sick economically, with an economy lamed by gargantuan debt, outsourcing and rampant speculation, and yet somehow it manages to spend more on its military machine than every other country in the world combined. This is only possible because the dollar has been, up until now, the world currency, and because the US is living on the rest of the world's savings. The supreme irony is that the rest of the world is financing the US takeover of the Mid-East, and in a few years countries which have had, and have right now, the power to stop the US in its tracks by dumping dollars and Treasuries, but can't face the dire consequences of doing so, will have to kow-tow to the US for oil. Once that time arrives they won't dare dump US paper and face the retribution of having their oil supply cut off and their economies shut down. At present the US is only militarily the greatest power on earth, but in a few years it looks set to assume comprehensive hegemony of the planet, as the massive oil revenues from the spoils of the Mid-East campaigns flow in and correct the careening deficits. China will then comply with US demands or the oil tap will be swiveled in the off direction. Russia, currently blessed by an abundant supply of oil and other natural resources, should do well, but will be surrounded and eventually forced into compliance as its resources dwindle and it becomes increasingly isolated. Britain, as the 1st officer of the US in its wars of acquisition, will enjoy a privileged place at the table in an increasingly resource starved world. Israel will look on with quiet satisfaction at all of this.
6. Now we crystallize the most important point of this article, which is what the whole thing has been leading up to. As we have already noted, the United States is widely perceived as an economic basket case on account of its astronomic debts and weakened domestic economy, but it is in the process of seizing control of the world's most important remaining oil reserves and bringing them on line. Once it has achieved this it will not just be the greatest military power on earth but will assume center stage as the greatest economic power on earth as well and be completely unassailable. By that time no other country will dare to, or perhaps even want to, dump dollars or US Treasuries. As we have observed on www.clivemaund.com in the recent past, the US stockmarket has refused to make new lows (apart from a fleeting intraday new low) for a couple of months now, despite all the doom and gloom flying around, and the volume internals of the market are bullish. So it would appear that Smart Money is beginning to get a handle on what's cooking as set out here. If our evaluation of the situation is correct, and China continues to play ball by not dumping US dollars or Treasuries, despite the Tibet provocation in the western media, then the US stockmarket is poised for a powerful bull market advance, as the injection of massive amounts of newly created liquidity works its magic and eases the global financial crisis. This advance would initially take the market back to its highs, but should later continue on to new highs. The huge global increases in money supply are of course highly inflationary and should continue to fuel a robust bull market in commodities, including gold and silver, even if they get put on the back burner and continue to correct for a while as the focus shifts to the broad stockmarket. Right now the US stock markets are poised to break out above the crucial 1400 resistance level on the S&P500 index, an event that could easily trigger a 400 - 500 point up day on the Dow Jones Industrials.