Both barrels

We’ve all become a little paranoid this past month, with good reason. Still, it’s hard to bring up certain subjects—like the connection between America’s “war on terrorism” and the vast oil reserves of Central Asia and the Middle East—without sounding like a rabid, over-the-top, conspiracy-theorist lefty.

After all, going to war was not our choice—right?—but was thrust upon us by a new and alarming need to wipe out the terrorists who perpetrated the awful events of September 11.

Well, sort of. But as it often turns out in geopolitics, the obvious is only part of the truth—because we happen to be at war in a region of the world where a map of terrorists’ hideouts and sanctuaries is also a map of a region of the world that holds an extraordinary amount of the world’s primary energy source.

From his station in Paris, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Frank Viviano was one of the first in the mainstream press to explore the oil connection as, at least, a backdrop to the current war. He writes: “The hidden stakes in the war against terrorism can be summed up in one word: oil.” The article goes on to show how the defense of these energy resources will likely become “the primary flash point of global conflict” for decades to come.

Central Asia and the Middle East supply more than 65 percent of the world’s oil and natural gas production right now. By 2050, it will supply a whopping 80 percent, according to the Statistical Review of World Energy. Add to this the fact that proven and estimated oil reserves in this region equals 800 billion barrels of crude petroleum, compared to the 160 billion barrels in America and Europe.

In this light, the war against terrorism can actually be seen, more than in part, as a war on behalf of ChevronTexaco, ExxonMobil, Arco, British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell and other multinational giants who, Viviano reminds us, have hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in this region. It’s disturbing also to observe that the President’s own family fortune is derived from the oil industry.

Contemplating the oil/war connection is far from paranoid. In fact, when you count the barrels, it’s possible to imagine the war against terrorism morphing into one to control oil fields.

The subject of war and oil brings us around, finally, to U.S. energy policies. Bush/Cheney’s proposed energy plan—with its $33.5 billion provided in subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear power—increases America’s dependence on fossil fuels and also increases the likelihood that oil will continue to be a destabilizing force in world politics. Consider this: an energy policy that promotes safe, clean and domestically based energy (i.e. alternative energy) could be a stabilizing force and actually become a mighty weapon in our battle to improve national security into the future.