It is common knowledge that the United States is the largest consumer of global petroleum resources. Not only does oil drive our massive economy, but it also powers our cars and commercial trucks; construction and agricultural equipment; and our air and sea transportation.
However, two industrializing countries have witnessed a growing thirst for oil: China and India. In recent days, increased oil consumption by these two nations have not only sent global petroleum prices higher, but they have also contributed to increased global demand for a finite resource that has already begun to decline in earnest.
The question of whether we should blame China and India for industrializing and using more of the world’s oil is hotly debated. After all, most of the goods we purchase on a daily basis are made in China. But rather than assigning blame, perhaps it would be more constructive to work with China and India in order to implement energy-saving measures in their own countries.
The Politics of Oil: Preempting China in the Middle East
So many theories as to the “real” motive behind the Iraq war have been floated around like so much sea foam upon the raging waves.
Was it truly to free the Iraqi people and the world of the “threat” of Saddam the Tyrant? Was it to target an unpopular world figure to invade and occupy a key Middle Eastern country in order to lay new oil and natural gas pipelines and to secure its oil resources? Was it to make Iraq a model for democracy in the Middle East as President Bush set forth? Or was it a bid for American global dominance pursuant to the neocons’ Project for a New American Century (PNAC)?
Perhaps we’ll never really know the true reason for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. But I often wonder if the National Security Council (NSC), the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Energy, the Secretary of Defense, and others met one day with the president in early 2001 and told him: “Mr. President, China is growing at an amazing rate. At some point they will seek new energy resources, and they will no doubt look to the Middle East for those resources. Mr President, we don’t want to see permanent Chinese bases in the region competing with American interests. We must find a way to preempt China’s bid for Middle East dominance.”
The Politics of Oil: India
India is another case of explosive growth in the last decade, albeit not nearly as explosive as China. In recent years, India’s growth has resulted from investment in high-tech and advanced manufacturing.
However, not all Indians are seeing a rise in their standard of living as high unemployment, poverty, and illiteracy continues to plague the country. Strict labor laws and the Indian caste system further erode India’s ability to compete in the global marketplace. Therefore, it is safe to say that China surpasses India as a major exporter of inexpensive consumer products.
The Politics of Oil: The China-Russia-Iran Nexus
China’s position as the preeminent global manufacturing base and exporter of inexpensive goods has caused the country to make deals to secure Middle Eastern oil.
Most notable is the China-Russia-Iran triumvirate, a coalition in both national security and energy policy. But it is a very delicate balancing act; for if China fails to acquire the amount of oil necessary to power its economy, its exports will become more expensive. And if Chinese goods become pricier here in America, our economy will suffer even more than it is now as consumer spending declines due to the higher prices.
So what will the future bring in an era of increasing demand and decreasing supply of world oil? For one thing, wars and skirmishes over this declining and utterly necessary resource may grow in number. But if countries including China, India, and the United States turn to renewable forms of energy such as wind, solar, hydrogen, and nuclear, perhaps the future will be a bit brighter.