Both George Bush and John Kerry made "energy independence" a key issue on the campaign trail. Kerry promised to "make this nation independent of Middle East oil in ten years." Bush said in his State of the Union address last year, "Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country." (NYT, Oct. 25)
Meanwhile, analysts place the blame for grossly inflated prices squarely on Bush’s own policies. And with US military planners charting a new global command structure aimed at securing oil resources in sub-Saharan Africa, the talk of "energy independence" seems largely intended for domestic consumption.
BUSH INFLATES PRICES
Oil prices continue to hover at around $50-per-barrel, an unprecedented high–a trend apparently exacerbated by White House purchases for the US Strategic Reserves. Reported Bloomberg News Nov. 4: "Deliveries of about 100,000 barrels a day to the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the US-led occupation of Iraq sapped supply at a time of rising global demand, contributing to a 76% surge in prices in the past year. Bush plans to add at least 57 million barrels more of oil to guard against disruption in supplies."
Prices, which had dropped slightly below $50 for the first time in months just before the election, immediately surged back up as Bush emerged victorious. (Reuters, Nov. 3)
The ongoing horror-show in Iraq is clearly a key factor in escalating prices. On Nov. 2, as US voters went to the polls, insurgents again blew up Iraq’s northern pipeline, shutting down the 400,000-barrels-a-day flow to the Turkish port of Ceyhan–where storage is currently down to 4 million barrels, half the port’s capacity, largely due to incessant sabotage of the Iraq pipeline. (NYT, Nov. 3)
AFRICA BECOMES STRATEGIC
Strife in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta has simultaneously caused Royal Dutch Shell to sharply reduce output. Deep poverty in the midst of oil wealth, as well as the contamination of peasant lands and waters by Shell operations, have led to local armed movements, especially among the Ijaw ethnicity. Two rival armed groups are fighting both the Nigerian government and each other. Ateke "The Godfather" Tom of the Niger Delta Vigilantes is opposed by Alhaji Mujahid Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, a self-proclaimed admirer of Osama bin Laden who boasts of terror training in Libya and Afghanistan. Dokubo went on TV in late September to promise a wave of bombings and killings of foreign oil facilities and workers—to be dubbed "Operation Locust Feast"—unless the government agreed to grant the Delta region self-determination by Oct. 1. President Olusegun Obasanjo actually sent one of his official planes to bring the two militia leaders to the capital for talks, forestalling the promised terror campaign and leading to a temporary ceasefire. (Newsday, Nov. 1)
Labor unrest is also shaking Nigeria, where consumers are suffering from fuel price hikes despite the fact that the country is a top global oil producer. Unions declared Shell "an enemy of the people" in an Oct. 31 statement and called for a Nov. 16 national strike that could send further shock waves through global markets. The country’s umbrella union, the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), staged a four-day national walk-out in protest of high fuel prices in mid-October, shutting down Lagos, the largest city and commercial center. The government’s jailing of NLC leader Adams Oshiomhole only served to harden the union’s position and widen the protests. (Afrol News, Oct. 11)
On Oct. 14, just as the general strike was paralyzing Lagos, Richard Wilcox, a member of the US National Security Council under President Clinton, had a New York Times op-ed piece calling for the Pentagon to establish an African Command. Noting that Africa is currently divided between the European, Central and Pacific commands, he argues that military planners have underestimated the continent’s strategic importance. While posing the possibility of "a humanitarian mission to help the people of Darfur", Wilcox does not fail to mention oil: "The Navy has conducted major exercises off West Africa, an area that, according to a recent study by the National Intelligence Council, may surpass the Persian Gulf as a source of oil for the United States in a decade."
Africa already accounts for a larger share of US oil imports than most Americans realize. According to Energy Department figures, the top five US oil suppliers are Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela and Nigeria. The sixth is Iraq, where the industry remains under ostensible state control despite US pressure for privatization. Filling out the top 15 are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Kuwait, the UK, Norway, Colombia, Russia and Gabon.
In a typically sneering paid advertorial on the Times’ Oct. 25 op-ed page, entitled "National Security and Energy," Daniel J. Popeo of the ultra-conservative Washington Legal Foundation scapegoated domestic environmentalists for the current oil shock (teaser: "Paying at the pump for activism"). Dismissing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as "a barren patch of Alaskan wasteland", Popeo writes: "These activists should call themselves ‘Environmentalists for Foreign Energy Dependence’–as we have them to thank for the decades of regulations and lawsuits that make it nearly impossible to discover and refine oil here. And then, when we must rely on oil from unstable regions of the world, like the Middle East, these very same activists hypocritically scream ‘no blood for oil.’ Such dependence empowers erratic foreign regimes and power-hungry terrorists to hold our economy and national security hostage."
Defenders of clean air as well as Alaskan wilderness are also portrayed as traitors and terrorist dupes. "Once oil is drilled, even more government mandates make it costly to turn crude into gasoline. Demand for gas in the US is simply outstripping the capacity of domestic refineries, adding to what we pay at the pump and furthering our reliance on overseas production. Thanks to activist-driven federal rules, a new refinery hasn’t been built here for almost thirty years."
While he pays brief lip-service to "responsible, authentic environmentalism" that "contemplates the balanced use and enjoyment of our resources," Popeo dramatically fails to contemplate the self-evident reality that our refineries wouldn’t be stretched past capacity if so many of us weren’t riding around in gas-guzzling SUVs. He also fails to note that at current rates of consumption, all the oil in the ANWR–a maximum 5.2 billion barrels–wouldn’t get the US through six months. Despite such intellectual dishonesty, Popeo has the chutzpah to call his paid column "In All Fairness."
Solcomhouse, solar energy advocacy website, fact-page on ANWR
See also WW4 REPORT #103
Special to WORLD WAR 3 REPORT, Nov. 5, 2004
Reprinting permissible with attribution