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“Peak Oil and Energy Imperialism” by John Bellamy Foster in the latest issue of Monthly Review is at the tip of a growing awareness of Peak Oil among Left intellectuals. I’ve been waiting for this for a few years now, and it’s good to see that people are starting to make the connections between oil scarcity and US imperialism.

Foster is pushing a kind of “Green Marxism” – in fact the Monthly Review as a whole is beginning to focus quite a bit on energy and ecology in its critiques of US empire.

The approach is good – peak oil is examined with calm as an inevitable geological event, “alternative” energy sources like tar sands and ethanol are shown in their true nasty colors, and the reader is presented with the option of allowing the government to continue to assault those unfortunate enough to be born on top of oil reserves, or to work for a new humane world.

However, one place this critique falls short is in (explicitly or implicitly) propagating the notion that awareness of Peak Oil by neo-conservatives in the halls of power is what prompted aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq or Venezuela, and labeling this a “new energy imperialism.”

Unfortunately the capitalist system is far more complex and multi-faceted than that, and the neo-cons, like all US elites, are just tools existing to serve the interests of US corporations and the Pentagon, which they are doing quite well by continuing the same old foreign policy of trying to control the oil-rich Middle East (by force if necessary – with the added bonus of trillions of dollars of contracts for the military-industrial complex). If only it were as easy as pinning our problems on the ideas in the heads of those in power, all we’d need to do to end the crisis would be to put someone with better ideas in power! Sorry, it’s not gonna work like that.

The “energy imperialism” we see today as the US gears up for war with Iran is nothing “new” at all; it’s the exact same system that toppled Mossadegh in 1953, that provided tanks, planes and chemical weapons to both sides of the Iran-Iraq war throughout the 80s, and that has been pouring billions of dollars of military aid into Israel to act as regional policeman for 60 years.

The only thing that’s new is that the system is beginning to fail, and the US is having a much harder time maintaining its dominance over the Persian Gulf region, relying on brute force and direct occupation, and even that isn’t working for them anymore.

What we face is not a “new energy imperialism” but an old energy imperialism, newly being beaten. I see peak oil as a major catalyst in the inevitable crumbling of the US empire, and an immense opportunity for all who desire peace, justice or human rights. [alex]

Peak Oil and Energy Imperialism

by John Bellamy Foster

Originally published by Monthly Review. July/August 2008.

The rise in overt militarism and imperialism at the outset of the twenty-first century can plausibly be attributed largely to attempts by the dominant interests of the world economy to gain control over diminishing world oil supplies.1 Beginning in 1998 a series of strategic energy initiatives were launched in national security circles in the United States in response to: (1) the crossing of the 50 percent threshold in U.S. importation of foreign oil; (2) the disappearance of spare world oil production capacity; (3) concentration of an increasing percentage of all remaining conventional oil resources in the Persian Gulf; and (4) looming fears of peak oil.

The response of the vested interests to this world oil supply crisis was to construct what Michael Klare in Blood and Oil has called a global “strategy of maximum extraction.”2 This required that the United States as the hegemonic power, with the backing of the other leading capitalist states, seek to extend its control over world oil reserves with the object of boosting production. Seen in this light, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (the geopolitical doorway to Western access to Caspian Sea Basin oil and natural gas) following the 9/11 attacks, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the rapid expansion of U.S. military activities in the Gulf of Guinea in Africa (where Washington sees itself as in competition with Beijing), and the increased threats now directed at Iran and Venezuela—all signal the rise of a dangerous new era of energy imperialism. Read the rest of this entry »

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