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The all-out war in Georgia finally moved from page 14A to the front page in my local paper today: about time. But the story leaves out entirely one of the most important elements of the conflict: the oil factor. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline runs from Azerbaijan to Turkey through Georgia and, with a one-million-barrels-per day capacity, is a key provider of energy for the EU and the United States. In fact, along with the sister Baku-Supsa Pipeline, it’s the sole supply link for oil resources in this area that wasn’t controlled by Russia or Iran.
News reports in the U.S. seem to downplay the oil angle, probably in hopes of maintaining the recent slide in oil prices. But the threat is very real – not just that hostilities will damage the B-T-C pipeline (which is already shut down for the moment due to PKK insurgency last week in Turkey), but that Russia will seize control of the pipeline and use it as a tool to control prices and exert power over the West. Indeed, that may be a prime reason for the Russian attack on Georgia. As noted in earlier posts, in the World Without Oil game, players predicted aggressive moves such as this by the new petropowers to consolidate their energy control…. As with Iraq, if oil is not the #1 reason given for invasion, it will be a faithful and constant #2. Photo by YourLocalDave via Flickr.
Another WWO pre-ja vu moment this week, reading this article by Megan Stack of the LA Times about Hugo Chavez’ visit to Russia, and what can only be described as the petro-drunk antics that he and Vladimir Putin indulged in. The two oil-rich nations signed energy security agreements, oil business deals, and arms deals, and expressed a common interest in establishing the ruble as a major reserve currency, replacing the dollar. The two spoke of Fidel Castro and waved off a report that Russia would begin to use Cuba as a base for nuclear-capable bombers.
These real-world actions mirror what players of the World Without Oil game foresaw as happening: the rise of a new world petro-order. And just to slam the point home, read this article by Norma Love about New Hampshire’s abrupt u-turn regarding Venezuelan oil. The upshot: for a number of years Chavez has offered free oil to keep America’s poor warm in the winter; New Hampshire has refused it on principle, led by Republican Senator John Sununu; except this year, not so much. “Live Free or Die,” except when it’s oil.
Made poignant by the fact that Gracesmom, probably WWO’s most beloved character, was a young single mom living hand-to-mouth in New Hampshire.
The turn of events points up something else that WWO got right: the government’s paralysis, and especially the Administration’s. Looking at the dive in oil prices the day after Al Gore issued his energy challenge only serves to highlight how unable the Administration is to generate any vision of a way forward. Thanks, Laurel, for the lead!
The credit crisis is grabbing the headlines in America, as Fannie and Freddie starve on the empty calories of their bad loans, IndyMac Bank goes into federal conservatorship, and so on. The latest Harper’s Index gives the underlying numbers:
Chance that a U.S. home is currently vacant: 1 in 35
Rank of this among the highest recorded vacancy rates in U.S. history: 1
An article in The Economist (July 12) backs up the numbers: 18,600,000 U.S. housing units stand empty. It goes on to say that “formerly vibrant neighborhoods have taken on the dilapidated air of ghost towns” and “municipal taxes go unpaid” and “boarded-up homes invite looting, drugs and other criminal activity” – all outcomes foreseen in the WWO game. What we didn’t foresee: that cities would respond by demolishing the homes. But that’s actually being contemplated, according to the article.
The media hasn’t yet connected the 2008 credit crisis to the 2008 oil crisis, but again WWO teaches us the connection is there. As explained in an earlier post, the Petro Razor is at work here. Communities with forced commutes are on the wrong side of the Razor are likely never to recover; I’ve already heard anecdotal evidence that this process is underway.
Meanwhile, in a short article on Page 10A, we learn that Russia has reduced oil flow to the Czech Republic without warning or explanation. The move comes three days after the CR inked an agreement enabling the U.S. to build a missile-tracking radar station on Czech soil, So now begins the petropower plays among nations, also foreseen in WWO? The event that set off the global oil crisis was this: oil suppliers “unilaterally renegotiated their contracts,” delivering less oil than promised, which is exactly what’s happening to the Czech Republic. So is this a one-off, or a canary going thud in the coal mine? Stay tuned. Photo by judepics via Flickr.