Energy to affect global politics

Those taking advantage of lower gas prices should enjoy it while they can.’

Students and faculty gathered as Michael Klare, peace and world security studies professor from the Five Colleges in Massachusetts, evaluated geo-political energy trends and fielded questions in UH’s McElhinney Hall. ‘

Klare discussed the ideas he put forward in his latest book, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, and the implications of events that followed the book’s publication.

‘ ‘The world that I saw was characterized by several distinctive features,’ Klare said.’ ‘First of all, an intense competition for the available supply of exportable energy among the major energy importing countries.’

This competition for resources has recently escalated with the industrialization of Asian countries, Klare said.

In 1993, China met all of its oil needs domestically, producing three million barrels of oil each day, Klare said. By 2006, China became the world’s second-largest oil consumer and third largest importer, using more than seven million barrels per day.

‘It is the rise of these new energy consumers that is partly responsible for the dramatic increase in energy prices we saw in 2007 and 2008,’ Klare said.

Declining oil production in existing fields is intensifying the world’s growing energy demands. A global study of existing oil fields showed a decline of production of 9 to 10 percent, instead of the predicted 3 to 4 percent.

‘The biggest field in Mexico, the Cantarell field, declined 40 percent last year,’ Klare said. ‘At the same time, the rate of discovery of new oil fields has proven to be much more disappointing than previously believed.’

An expected effect of these factors is increased state control of energy management and procurement. Countries with energy surpluses, such as Russia and Venezuela, and those with deficits, such as the U.S. and Japan, can be expected to exert more influence on energy resources – especially oil, Klare said.

‘The most important political objective of (former Russian President) Vladimir Putin is to reassert state control over Russia’s oil and gas resources,’ Klare said.

To secure access to oil resources, new partnerships and strategic relationships are being formed, such as the one shared by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.’

Major energy consumers are also likely to clash over control of regions that produce natural gas, oil or other forms of exportable energy.

‘We see this in the formation, just last year, of U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM,’ Klare said. ‘It has everything to do with oil and everything to do with competition with China.’

Klare addressed three key global developments since the publication of his book – the 2008 war in Georgia, the election of President Barack Obama and the current economic crisis – and how they influence his predictions.

‘I believe the principal motive to invade Georgia was the desire by Russia to further assert its control over the transportation of oil and natural gas in the Caspian Sea region,’ Klare said.

Obama’s election and the energy policies confirm a trend toward greater state control of energy resources, Klare said. Due to the global economic downturn, the world has seen a reduced demand for oil, but when this economic crisis passes, the competitive struggle will resume.

‘Some of the arguments need to be revised,’ Klare said. ‘At least for the next few decades, the picture I’ve laid out remains valid.’

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