Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Black Gold, Texas Tea

Oil closed today at a record $80. Are we creeping ever closer toward the mythical (and hotly contested) Peak Oil theory? I have no idea. One thing I do know is that oil is a finite resource and demand for it has grown exponentially, even in the past decade. Something about the Chinese not wanting to ride bicycles anymore. Who could have guessed??

I thought I remembered reading an article once that ran scenarios about what would happen if oil hit $100 but a quick google failed to turn it up again. What I recall is that the impact to our general economy was devastating. As much as we love to think we're a high tech nation, our interstate commerce is still driven by the trucking industry (for example, it's how food arrives at your local grocery store). And we loves us our airplanes. And those great big boats that bring us cheap shit from China. You get the picture. Maybe we can scale back on our SUV consumption but that's only one small way we're burning through the oil. Oil prices and availability affect everything.

We shouldn't kid ourselves that securing a reliable oil supply is not key to our national interests. Personally, I would prefer finding a way to bring alternative energy sources mainstream sooner rather than waiting for so-called market forces to make it more palatable for conservatives. But for today we must accept that we're all junkies and oil is our crystal meth.

It's as popular for anti-Iraq war people to claim that we invaded Iraq for oil as it is for pro-Iraq war people to ridicule them for it. While it's true that 9/11 compelled a national taste for Arab flesh, the architects of the Iraq war had oil in mind long before Osama became interested in airplanes. In 1997, when PNAC launched itself, its concern with Saddam as an existential threat was not nearly as pronounced as its concern that Saddam threatened our national interests in the region. We know what that means, right? PNAC, btw, includes Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Khalilzad as charter members. Ring any bells?

I was reminded of PNAC and oil and the shred of pragmatic truthiness about our national interest in the region when I read a speech delivered by Bush to the American Legion on 8/28. When speaking of the danger of leaving Iraq, he said (among other things), "Extremists would control a key part of the world's energy supply, could blackmail and sabotage the global economy." Most pro-Iraq war people I know aren't really considering oil as a motivation for being in Iraq. They've got much more noble ideas in mind regarding democracy and national security. We may differ in opinion regarding the role we should be playing in third world democracies or the role Iraq plays in our national security, but I believe they are well intentioned ideas. Most people aren't thinking about the oil but I think our government thinks about it quite a bit.

The reason I'm bringing this up now is that I just read about the collapse of the Iraqi Oil Compromise via Josh Marshall at TPM. This is pretty critical stuff. As TPM points out, the Kurdish oil deal that so angered the Sunni and Shia (and ultimately killed the compromise law) involves Hunt Oil, run by Ray Hunt, two time appointee to Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. It seems possible to me that Bush already knew that the Iraqi Oil Compromise was a non-starter with none of the Sunni, Shia, or Kurds willing to actually, um... compromise. It seems plausible that the only way to salvage a win out of the situation was to ensure a satisfactory commercial agreement that gives us access to Iraqi oil through the Kurds. I don't expect we'll hear many objections from the Bush camp since it's likely they gave their explicit approval in advance. In fact, this signifies to me that, despite what he says to the public, Bush himself is no longer a believer regarding political reconciliation in Iraq and at this point is just working to secure what he needs before the whole thing goes up in flames.


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