Strategic Implications of the Coming Oil Shortage
Everybody feels the pain of price hikes at the pump. The supply of oil is not endless.
But wasn’t this all predictable, this fact of oil becoming a precious commodity the closer we got to the limits of its availability? After all, it’s a finite resource. As well-known energy expert Dr. John Rutledge once said, “God only made a limited amount of dinosaurs, and they’re all dead. … We’re running out of dead dinosaurs—that’s the big problem” (Rutledge Capital, Oct. 5, 2005).
Of course, Dr. Rutledge was referring to the fact that fossil fuels, which supply the energy to drive today’s industrialized, high-tech economies, are limited: Only a certain number of the fossils from which oil is extracted are buried beneath the soil, rocks and seas. One day it will all simply run out. Anticipating that day, and doing something about it now, is the challenge presently facing mankind, and mankind has shown little capacity or will to act.
The technology and the know-how to really do something about this have existed for decades. What has been missing is the will to commit the requisite capital and manpower to develop viable alternatives.
The world sees America as the great bogeyman when it comes to energy consumption and resultant pollution. It also recognizes that without a continual supply of energy-producing oil, the U.S. would descend rapidly from its position as the world’s leading economic and military power. This all creates geopolitical tension in today’s high-priced oil market.
The problem is, much of the precious black gold outside America lies within nations that show varying degrees of hostility to the land of the free and the home of the brave. This does not bode well for America’s future.
“Oil and energy supplies are real and long-term problems,” Dr. Rutledge commented. “We’ve got to deal [with] them now because without solutions, the energy demand required to fuel economic growth in Asia in the face of limited resources will set the stage for serious conflict between the U.S. and China. The relationship between the U.S. and China in the years ahead will be the most important story of our lifetimes. Facing up to our oil problems today will help us get it right” (ibid.).
We must agree with most of this assessment. It’s a natural extrapolation of the current crisis of supply and demand. Yet we beg to differ on one strategic point. It won’t be China that instigates serious conflict with the U.S. over oil, though indications are that Beijing will have a hand in encouraging such conflict. We would pose an alternative scenario, based on both historical precedent and unerring biblical prophecy.
The U.S. has passed its peak as the world’s single greatest nation. Few would support this view, though many desire to see it become a reality.
America built its economy on self-sufficiency and surplus of goods produced by industries energized by oil. Blessed with great ocean borders to the east and west, and controllable gateways to its north and south, the U.S. basked in splendid isolation from the time of its founding as a nation until World War i. Paradoxically, whereas two great world wars sucked the life’s blood largely from Britain, U.S. involvement in these wars actually stimulated its great industrial capacity to even greater global dominance.
But since the 1970s, the U.S. economy has changed dramatically. The U.S. has gone from its height as the world’s largest creditor nation—once outproducing all others with its oil-fueled, but otherwise self-sufficient economy—to become the world’s largest debtor nation by far—a net importer of goods from food to consumables, increasingly even including the high-tech goods whose production it pioneered.
And the very source of energy that largely empowered its once-great industrial and military might—oil—is being depleted rapidly. And herein lies our disagreement with the earlier quotation. For, in this respect, it will not be China that poses the greatest strategic threat to the U.S.
The world’s second largest goods exporter is Germany. Unlike the U.S., Germany has linked itself to a ready supply of oil and gas through a mutually dependent relationship with a huge developing supplier—Russia. Berlin has supplied the capital and technology; Moscow supplies the product. To each, this agreement has tremendous strategic advantages. Neither can afford to upset the other politically, for they stare at each other across the vast Polish plain, having a history of massive disaster should they be drawn into conflict. It suits each to depend on the other; this makes for stability in their international relations.
Such is not the case with America and its alternative sources of supply.
The U.S. has opted for the Middle East as one of its suppliers to fill the gap as its own oil reserves dry up. This is hardly friendly territory. It would thus be natural for relationships to form among those who wish to work for America’s demise, to restrict or—at a strategically convenient time—even cut off, the U.S. from its sources of energy.
China, the developing Islamic alliance led by Iran, and the European Union through its Franco-German leadership, have all expressed an interest in working to see the U.S. toppled from its perch.
Iran sits atop a major pool of oil and is working to add the huge oil-production capacity of Iraq to that.
The EU (destined to be led by Germany) and Russia have a workable agreement. China controls the sea gates through which much of Middle Eastern oil flows. Any student of international relations would put this equation together and come up with a future alliance of these three powers having a common interest to see the U.S. brought to its knees.
Iran could influence opec to simply turn off the tap of oil supply to the U.S. China could shut the gates, preventing supplies from other sources entering America. A German-led EU, the world’s largest trading bloc—content with its guaranteed source of energy supply and with its eastern borders secured by a convenient alliance with Russia—would be ideally placed, with the U.S. thus blockaded, to simply de-energize the U.S. and cripple its economy.
Sound far-fetched? Not to any geopolitical strategist. Is it likely to occur? Look at the present state of affairs in Germany, then consider its history.
Back on October 11, 2005, Stratfor wrote, “Few states of Germany’s size and central location would ever be satisfied deferring to Washington’s interests, while most of the rest of the EU’s 25 member states find the idea of German leadership disturbing at best. That leaves a number of other paths that Germany has trod before in the interests of German primacy—under leaders with names like Charlemagne, Bismarck, Wilhelm and Hitler.” That’s a rational observation from a realist perspective.
Watch Germany, and watch the oil issue! The two, in tandem, are destined to have great impact on the future of the United States of America and, indeed, the whole world economy.