The new energy war with oil as weapon
By Dr R Balashankar
The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World, Daniel Yergin, Allen Lane, Penguin Books Ltd, Pp 804 (HB), £ 30.00
The recent skirmish between India and China over the oil exploration project in Vietnam waters had very little to do with territorial violations and had lots to do with oil. China protested because it is scouting world over for taking up oil extraction contracts to feed the ever-growing need for fuel to keep its economy growing. Oil. That’s at the crux of a whole lot of crisis and war around the globe. America’s interest in Iraq, Kuwait, Libya and Iran — all are rooted in the quest for the liquid gold. The one who controls the oil controls the world—may as well be the new oracle.
The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin discusses the whole sweep of issues involving this precious natural resource. In clearly demarcated six parts, in well-defined chapters and sub-chapters, Yergin takes up one aspect after another, maintaining a political balance in narration. He sets out to explain how important energy is to the world. “It is the story of the quest for the energy on which we so completely rely, for the position and rewards that accrue from energy, and for the security it affords.” The apprehension about the future availability of oil, the havoc the extraction and use of this energy causes to the environment and how to secure the oil are some of the aspects dealt with.
Saddam Hussain attacked Kuwait over the oil issue and America and Britain jumped into the fray for the same reason, supporting Kuwait and finally gobbling up both the nations using the euphemism fighting dictatorship, to establish democracy! This rouse is being used in Libya too. In fact “some Russians also believed, or at least half believed, that the United States had deliberately orchestrated the collapse of the Soviet Union for the specific purpose of getting its hands on Caspian Oil.”
Yergin discusses the production and pricing of oil, the several international conferences that thrashed this issue threadbare, the technological advances that have been made in the exploration and extraction of oil and the demand-supply scenario. China is inevitably in the centre of all these discussions. “The great economic expansion has changed China’s oil position. Two decades ago China was not only self-sufficient in oil but an exporter of petroleum…The People’s Republic of China is now the second-largest oil consumer in the world, behind only the United States. Between 2000 and 2010, its petroleum consumption more than doubled….This build-out of China over the next two or three decades will be one of the defining forces not just for China but for the world economy.”
China has developed new technologies that can literally squeeze a well dry of oil. In Peru, using these recovery techniques, it pushed up the production from 600 barrels a day to 7,000. This country has also adopted the ‘go-out‘ policy in search of oil. Thats where the quarrels between China and other oil exploring and recovery countries pop up.
What when oil finishes? This question haunts a lot of nations and futurists. Alternate energy in the form of nuclear, sustainable sources like wind, solar and photovoltaic are emerging. But none of them have been exploited to the full. The nuclear energy is wrought with dangers, especially after the twin natural disasters in Japan. The other sustainable energy sources have not been harnessed mainly because of lack of R & D and in current scenario are expensive for common use.
Today, oil is a weapon as well as an instrument. While it triggers wars, it also forges new alliances and groupings. The energy starved countries are being left behind in the development story. The new republics in the Russian confederation are sitting over mines of oil, with Russians guarding over them. A recent report indicated that in India in Arunachal Pradesh a huge amount of shale gas has been located. And China’s increased incursions in the area and unjustified claim over that Himalayan state are being linked with this. Like America, China is also bullying its way through the hydrocarbon waves, seeking to sideline and conquer whoever comes in the path. This definitely is a new weapons race.
The Quest is a source book that can tell the history, geography and sociology of oil. It is comprehensive, exhaustive and packed with information. Daniel Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize winner, whose award-winning book has been converted into a documentary by BBC/PBS, is an authority on energy, which adds immense value to the book.
(Penguin Books, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORI, England)