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The Energy Wars Heat Up

Posted on May 10, 2012
-Chupacabras- (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A poster celebrates the nationalization of YPF, Argentina’s largest oil company.

By Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch

This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch. Read Tom Engelhardt’s introduction here.

Conflict and intrigue over valuable energy supplies have been features of the international landscape for a long time.  Major wars over oil have been fought every decade or so since World War I, and smaller engagements have erupted every few years; a flare-up or two in 2012, then, would be part of the normal scheme of things.  Instead, what we are now seeing is a whole cluster of oil-related clashes stretching across the globe, involving a dozen or so countries, with more popping up all the time.  Consider these flash-points as signals that we are entering an era of intensified conflict over energy.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Argentina to the Philippines, here are the six areas of conflict—all tied to energy supplies—that have made news in just the first few months of 2012:

* A brewing war between Sudan and South Sudan: On April 10th, forces from the newly independent state of South Sudan occupied the oil center of Heglig, a town granted to Sudan as part of a peace settlement that allowed the southerners to secede in 2011.  The northerners, based in Khartoum, then mobilized their own forces and drove the South Sudanese out of Heglig.  Fighting has since erupted all along the contested border between the two countries, accompanied by air strikes on towns in South Sudan.  Although the fighting has not yet reached the level of a full-scale war, international efforts to negotiate a cease-fire and a peaceful resolution to the dispute have yet to meet with success.

This conflict is being fueled by many factors, including economic disparities between the two Sudans and an abiding animosity between the southerners (who are mostly black Africans and Christians or animists) and the northerners (mostly Arabs and Muslims).  But oil—and the revenues produced by oil—remains at the heart of the matter.  When Sudan was divided in 2011, the most prolific oil fields wound up in the south, while the only pipeline capable of transporting the south’s oil to international markets (and thus generating revenue) remained in the hands of the northerners.  They have been demanding exceptionally high “transit fees”—$32-$36 per barrel compared to the common rate of $1 per barrel—for the privilege of bringing the South’s oil to market.  When the southerners refused to accept such rates, the northerners confiscated money they had already collected from the south’s oil exports, its only significant source of funds.  In response, the southerners stopped producing oil altogether and, it appears, launched their military action against the north.  The situation remains explosive.

* Naval clash in the South China Sea: On April 7th, a Philippine naval warship, the 378-foot Gregorio del Pilar, arrived at Scarborough Shoal, a small island in the South China Sea, and detained eight Chinese fishing boats anchored there, accusing them of illegal fishing activities in Filipino sovereign waters.  China promptly sent two naval vessels of its own to the area, claiming that the Gregorio del Pilar was harassing Chinese ships in Chinese, not Filipino waters.  The fishing boats were eventually allowed to depart without further incident and tensions have eased somewhat.  However, neither side has displayed any inclination to surrender its claim to the island, and both sides continue to deploy warships in the contested area.

As in Sudan, multiple factors are driving this clash, but energy is the dominant motive.  The South China Sea is thought to harbor large deposits of oil and natural gas, and all the countries that encircle it, including China and the Philippines, want to exploit these reserves.  Manila claims a 200-nautical mile “exclusive economic zone” stretching into the South China Sea from its western shores, an area it calls the West Philippine Sea; Filipino companies say they have found large natural gas reserves in this area and have announced plans to begin exploiting them.  Claiming the many small islands that dot the South China Sea (including Scarborough Shoal) as its own, Beijing has asserted sovereignty over the entire region, including the waters claimed by Manila; it, too, has announced plans to drill in the area.  Despite years of talks, no solution has yet been found to the dispute and further clashes are likely.


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By prosefights, May 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm Link to this comment

Jerry Brown tweeted at the right time?

Scroll down to Iran website posts, then google

‘aboulghassem zirakzadeh’

This matter goes back to 1958.

Then google ‘fred fair donald rumsfeld’.

Fred and bill both attended summer school at the University of Colorado in 1958.

Fred and bill are graduates of Shattuck School 1956.

Report this

By prosefights, May 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm Link to this comment

‘If Iran went for Solar, they wouldn’t need nuclear energy’ 

Large-scale solar generation of electricity may be a scam>

We are investigating.

Google Case No. 12-000007-ut’


Tuesday April 3, 2012 06:00

The US produces only 7% of the uranium it consumes, Byron King reported.

Written material has the problem that it is written by authors. And they cannot be trusted. Especially MSM.

Five new generators are on track for completion this decade, including two reactors approved just a few weeks ago (the first new reactor approvals in the US in over 30 years). Those will add to the 104 reactors that are already in operation around the country and already produce 20% of the nation’s power.
Those reactors will eat up 19,724 tonnes of U3O8 this year, which represents 29% of global uranium demand. If that seems like a large amount, it is! The US produces more nuclear power than any other country on earth, which means it consumes more uranium that any other nation. However, decades of declining domestic production have left the US producing only 4% of the world’s uranium.

With so little homegrown uranium, the United States has to import more than 80% of the uranium it needs to fuel its reactors. Thankfully, for 18 years a deal with Russia has filled that gap. The “Megatons to Megawatts” agreement, whereby Russia downblends highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads to create reactor fuel, has provided the US with a steady, inexpensive source of uranium since 1993. The problem is that the program is coming to an end next year.

The Upside to a Natural Gas Downturn
Marin Katusa, for The Daily Reckoning
Monday April 2, 2012

Friday April 13, 2012 06:33

Electricity production, not nuclear weapons, is at issue?

Reports suggest that America’s second demand will be the export of Iran’s stockpile of medium-enriched uranium.

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By stand to reason, May 13, 2012 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The unfettered global market, aka the club, everybody is in it
like it or not, except when it comes to energy then there is no
club anymore, it is something like the g20 against the rest of the
world. Absolutely astounding. That’s the way the milton
friedman economics works.

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By Alan MacDonald, May 11, 2012 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment

Wonder what Klare thinks of Steve Coll’s new book, “Private Empire; ExxonMobil and American Power”?

Wonder if the post-nation-state DGE (Disguised Global Empire) will be dominated by the fading nation-states or the newer global corporate-states?

Most likely, probably, an alliance hybrid of the two forms of Empire—- but certainly against what used to be called the citizens of the world, or now more correctly the “subjects of the world”, most certainly including the 99% of Americans about to be brought to heel.

Best luck and love to the “Occupy Empire” educational and revolutionary movement.

Liberty, democracy, equality & justice

Alan MacDonald
Sanford, Maine

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THX 1133 is not in the movie...'s avatar

By THX 1133 is not in the movie..., May 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

I wonder what the true cost of a barrel of oil is when
all things are factored in to it’s production?
Likely one of the costliest resources in our solar
And then there is water. Quietly (mostly), under the
radar, countries have been acquiring water rights. The
time is coming soon when access to water will be the
bloodiest disputes in the history of humans.

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By Big B, May 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment

Who would have ever thought that, instead of concentrating on the developement and distribution of green energy sources, the world would take up arms slaughter each other for every last remaining drop of oil, lump of coal, and cubic meter of gas?

Oh, that’s right, I did. Have for years. We’re humans, we just can’t help ourselves.

The next 30 years are going to be bloody. And at the end, we won’t have any carbon resources left and 110 degree days here in the upper Ohio valley will be the norm.

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By Jack W. Scott, May 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment

No, americanme, not at all, the U.S. should NOT have any nuclear, either!  No-one should have any nuclear, it is a dangerous scientific oddity that every aspect of should be eliminated.  By the way, I don’t agree with Willard that this should be an American century, Iran and the other nations of the world should be equal partners with us in developing a future powered by Solar Panels, and living sensibly on a planet with Nature restored to prominence.  You may notice that Solar can easily power independent houses and independent, autonomous villiages, this is important for a sensible social architecture for the world.  Solar Panels eliminate America’s need of nuclear, too, and also solve a whole host of various problems.

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americanme's avatar

By americanme, May 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment

Well, Jack, it appears from your post that you believe the US should still maintain nuclear energy facilities.

Why the US and not Iran?

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By Jack W. Scott, May 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

Solar Panels are the answer these conflicts, and China seems to know it!  If Iran went for Solar, they wouldn’t need nuclear energy, and if the U.S. went for Solar, we wouldn’t need oil!  Presto, problem solved!

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