Thursday, January 26, 2006

strife at the plateau of oil production

Peak oil is not just about how much oil is produced, but also:
1. who gets it
2. who finances it, and in what currency

Strategic power is forcefully shifting east, to Russia, Iran and China. Jim Willie just wrote a killer essay on the geopolitics of oil. I quote Willie on why the USA cannot attack Iran to control its oil fields, like it did to Iraq:
The Iranian Oil Exchange challenges the Petro-Dollar. This time it is different. Iran aint Iraq. Iran has two big friends who have a good memory of recent heavy-handed dealings. When the United States invaded Iraq, established the reconstruction, and began to install a new government, it did so with little resistance. In the process two big events took place, not mentioned much by the lapdog US press & media. Russia got screwed out of multiple billion$ in Iraqi debt. China got screwed out of multiple billion$ in large energy contracts for Iranian oil & gas....

By enlisting Russian and Chinese assistance militarily, Iran has won some effective defense. Clearly, Russia is the key participant, but not without China supplying key Silkworm missiles themselves. Recall Putin is a master chess player. Russia recently announced the sale of world class missile systems to Iran. Be sure that overtaking Iraq was akin to taking the lunch pail from a 7-yr old boy sitting for a school bus. Overtaking Iran bears no resemblance to Iraq. Iran has over 70 million people, as opposed to Iraq's 23 million. Iran has no easy borders and no friendly neighbor for the US to base an attack. The "shock & awe" was mere target practice and an exercise of advanced weaponry on largely undefended sites...

If oil does not actually peak in the next five years, but production follows a bumpy plateau, the key question will be "who gets it"? If the USA gets less and China gets more, then there will be a major change in the relative prosperity of those nations. Also, Putin's Russia is becoming very strong, controlling most of Europe's access to energy.

If the worldwide banking and trading markets shift to Euros, which is something Putin wants, this could bring severe changes also. Our bankers would probably lend us enough cash to stay solvent, but require reductions in our defense budget..

1 comment:

monkeygrinder said...

Thanks for the link.

One worrisome thing about the plateau is the tendancy of export countries to go from X amount of oil exported to suddenly being an importing country -- as happened indonesia.

This sets up a classic non-linear state flip.