Term Paper: Geopolitical Energy Competition

Pages: 8 (2545 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Energy  ·  Buy for $19.77


[. . .] Given the geography of the area, this typically means going through territory that is hostile to U.S. interests. Central Asia in general, being former Soviet colonies, is sympathetic to Russian interests. This is especially true in Kazakhstan, with its 30% Russian population. Turkic-speaking Uzbekistan has leaned towards the west as it attempts to leverage its historical connection to Turkey to fuel economic growth.

Nations have traditionally been wary of building their energy infrastructure in dangerous places. For example, Aruba and Trinidad have strong refining industries because Venezuela is not deemed stable enough for multi-billion dollar infrastructure investment, in spite of the fact that they produce most of the Caribbean's oil. Likewise, a pipeline is a massive undertaking. In addition to the billions of dollars and many years of up-front investment, the pipeline will have a useful life stretching into the decades. The choice of a route, therefore, is not taken lightly. Moreover, the oil-producing nations must consider with whom they want to trade. Turkmenistan, for example, can send oil through Central Asia into China; south through Iran to India or across the Caspian destined for Europe. This is why the sphere of influence is so important for oil-importing nations.

Each of these nations is critical because any pipeline to developed markets would need to go through one or more of these countries. One proposed pipeline would go from the Caspian into Russia via Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (Eurasianet, 2008). Other potential pipeline routes go via Iran and Pakistan into India; via the Caucasus nations and Russia into Europe and via Azerbaijan and Turkey into Europe. The types of multinational agreements and transnational influence-building make pipeline politics a critical subset of oil geopolitics.

New Frontiers

The math is clear. Oil consumption is rising rapidly; oil production is not. The world's oil producers are not producing at maximum capacity, but there is little reason to believe that they will be able to match the demand increases with new supply. We do not know how much oil remains to be discovered, but many feel we have already found the most significant reserves. With India and China -- two oil importers -- increasing consumption rapidly, the world's nations may soon find themselves in a position of having to compete for this valuable resource.

At first this competition may be economic in nature. Oil prices will rise in line with tightening supply. However, the economic impact of higher oil prices is severe. In a country like the United States, where demand will not fall as prices increase, the impact will be catastrophic economic loss. This will in turn compromise national security, and weaken the country's standing in the world.

As a result, the global competition for energy resources will only intensify over the coming decades. There are many means at our disposal to remedy the problems associated with the impending shortfall. However, until these remedies -- new technologies, reduced consumption -- are ready, the geopolitics of oil will characterize international relations in the 21st century.

Already this century we have seen that nations are willing to invade other nations in search of oil. The United States took over Iraq; Russia invaded Georgia to flex its muscles in the strategic Caucasus region. That so much of the world's oil supply is in dangerous, unstable or unfriendly areas only increases the risks to the U.S. economy and security. In response to this risk, we will likely see more action with respect to the nation's energy future. While the issue of oil dependence will be addressed on all fronts, there can be little doubt that either through diplomacy or through muscle, the United States will work hard to secure its energy needs. So too will Russia, and so too will China. This will bring the world's largest and most powerful nations to a head.

The most likely frontier for this conflict will be the Caspian Sea, the Caucasus Mountains and Central Asia. This region sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and is home to tremendous oil wealth. It is likely that all three aforementioned nations will expend much of the 21st century in a revival of the classic Great Game, the battle for supremacy and influence in Central Asia that was played out in the 19th century by Russia and Great Britain. This time, however, the stakes are energy security and, by extension, national security and economic security. With stakes this high nothing, including war, can be ruled out as a potential outcome of the 21st century's oil-related geopolitical machinations.

Works Cited

No author. (2009). 152nd Meeting of the OPEC Conference. OPEC. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from http://www.opec.org/opecna/Press%20Releases/2009/pr042009.htm

No author. (2008). 151st Meeting of the OPEC Conference. OPEC. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from http://www.opec.org/opecna/Press%20Releases/2008/pr172008.htm

Deffeyes, Kenneth S. (2003). Hubbert's Peak. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from http://books.google.com/books?id=fgDBgqhR_lsC&dq=peak+oil&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=Xp3iQQ8M6m&sig=BuO97Gq_zTX4h4gxnz8pqxOwPeo&hl=en&ei=kHvmSb_8Bc_gtgf7rYieBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2#PPA1,M1

No author. (2007). Energy Information Administration: 2007 Annual Review. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec5_3.pdf

Klare, M.T. (2008, May 14). Carnegie Council. "Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy." Retrieved March 27, 2009, from Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs: http://www.cceia.org/resources/audio/data/000198

Hughes, Jonathan E.; Knittel, Christopher R.; Sperling, Daniel (2006). Evidence of a Shift in the Short-Run Price Elasticity of Gasoline Demand SSRN. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=930730

No author. (2000). The Impact of Higher Oil Prices on the Global Economy. International Monetary Fund. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/oil/2000/index.htm#III_A

Kleveman, Lutz. (2004). The New Great Game. Retrieved April 16, 2009 from http://books.google.com/books?id=3pCz4OmRW-0C&printsec=frontcover

Cohen, Ariel. (2007). The National Security Consequences of Oil Dependency. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved April 17, 2009 from http://www.heritage.org/Research/NationalSecurity/hl1021.cfm

No author. (2008). Central Asia: Russia and United States Intensify Energy Competition. Eurasianet.org. Retrieved April 17, 2009 from http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav090508a.shtml [END OF PREVIEW]

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