Entering a Resource-Shock World

How Resource Scarcity and Climate Change Could Produce a Global Explosion

Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch.com, April 22, 2013

Brace yourself. You may not be able to tell yet, but according to global experts and the U.S. intelligence community, the earth is already shifting under you. Whether you know it or not, you’re on a new planet, a resource-shock world of a sort humanity has never before experienced.

Two nightmare scenarios — a global scarcity of vital resources and the onset of extreme climate change — are already beginning to converge and in the coming decades are likely to produce a tidal wave of unrest, rebellion, competition, and conflict. Just what this tsunami of disaster will look like may, as yet, be hard to discern, but experts warn of “water wars” over contested river systems, global food riots sparked by soaring prices for life’s basics, mass migrations of climate refugees (with resulting anti-migrant violence), and the breakdown of social order or the collapse of states. At first, such mayhem is likely to arise largely in Africa, Central Asia, and other areas of the underdeveloped South, but in time all regions of the planet will be affected. Continue lendo

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A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World: The Strategic Importance of Keystone XL

tarsandspipelineboomMichael T. Klare, TomDispatch.com, February 11, 2013

Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. In the near future, President Obama is expected to give its construction a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down, and the decision he makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines. It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet. If that sounds overly dramatic, let me explain. Continue lendo

Extreme Energy Means an Extreme Planet

The new “Golden Age of Oil” that wasn’t as forecasts of abundance collide with planetary realities

Michael T. Klare, Tom Dispatch.org, October 4, 2012

Last winter, fossil-fuel enthusiasts began trumpeting the dawn of a new “golden age of oil” that would kick-start the American economy, generate millions of new jobs, and free this country from its dependence on imported petroleum.  Ed Morse, head commodities analyst at Citibank, was typical.  In the Wall Street Journal he crowed, “The United States has become the fastest-growing oil and gas producer in the world, and is likely to remain so for the rest of this decade and into the 2020s.” Continue lendo

Calor, sequía, aumento de los costes de los alimentos y malestar global

Las guerras del hambre en nuestro futuro

Michael T. Klare, Tom Dispatch / Rebelión, 10 de agosto de 2012. Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens

La Gran Sequía de 2012 todavía no termina, pero ya sabemos que sus consecuencias serán severas. Con más de la mitad de los condados de EE.UU. identificados como zonas de desastre por la sequía, es seguro que la cosecha 2012 de maíz, soja y otros alimentos básicos será inferior a los pronósticos. Esto, por su parte, aumentará los precios de alimentos dentro y fuera de EE.UU., causando más miseria para los agricultores y estadounidenses de bajos ingresos y dificultades mucho mayores para gente pobre en países que dependen de la importación de granos estadounidenses. Continue lendo

The Coming Hunger Wars: Heat, Drought, Rising Food Costs, and Global Unrest

Michael Klare, TomDispatch.com, August 7, 2012

The Great Drought of 2012 has yet to come to an end, but we already know that its consequences will be severe. With more than one-half of America’s counties designated as drought disaster areas, the 2012 harvest of corn, soybeans, and other food staples is guaranteed to fall far short of predictions. This, in turn, will boost food prices domestically and abroad, causing increased misery for farmers and low-income Americans and far greater hardship for poor people in countries that rely on imported U.S. grains. Continue lendo

Obama Channels Cheney’s Geopolitical Energy Policy

 Four Ways the President Is Pursuing Cheney’s Geopolitics of Global Energy

Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch.com, June 21, 2012

As details of his administration’s global war against terrorists, insurgents, and hostile warlords have become more widely known — a war that involves a mélange of drone attacks, covert operations, and presidentially selected assassinations — President Obama has been compared to President George W. Bush in his appetite for military action. “As shown through his stepped-up drone campaign,” Aaron David Miller, an advisor to six secretaries of state, wrote at Foreign Policy, “Barack Obama has become George W. Bush on steroids.”

When it comes to international energy politics, however, it is not Bush but his vice president, Dick Cheney, who has been providing the role model for the president. As recent events have demonstrated, Obama’s energy policies globally bear an eerie likeness to Cheney’s, especially in the way he has engaged in the geopolitics of oil as part of an American global struggle for future dominance among the major powers. Continue lendo

Global Scarcity: Scramble for Dwindling Natural Resources

Dianne Toumey interview Michael Klare, Yale Environment 360, May 23, 2012

Michael Klare, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, devotes much of his time these days to thinking about the intensifying competition for increasingly scarce natural resources. His most recent book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, describes how the world economy has entered a period of what he calls “tough” extraction for energy, minerals, and other commodities, meaning that the easy-to-get resources have been exploited and a rapidly growing population is now turning to resources in the planet’s most remote regions — the Arctic, the deep ocean, and war zones like Afghanistan. The exploitation of “tough” resources, such as “fracking” for natural gas in underground shale formations, carries with it far greater environmental risk, Klare says. Continue lendo

Las guerras por la energía se calientan

Seis enfrentamientos y conflictos recientes en un planeta que va hacia la hiperactividad energética

Michael Klare, Tom Dispatch/Rebelión, 12 de mayo de 2012. Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens

El conflicto y la intriga por los suministros valiosos de energía han sido características del paisaje internacional desde hace mucho tiempo. En cada década desde la Primera Guerra mundial se han librado grandes guerras por el petróleo y han estallado enfrentamientos más pequeños cada pocos años; un estallido o dos en 2012, entonces, formarían parte de una situación normal. En su lugar, vemos ahora todo un cúmulo de choques relacionados con el petróleo que se propagan por todo el globo, involucrando a una docena de países, y cada vez aparecen más. Consideremos esos puntos de inflamación como señales de que entramos a una era de conflictos intensificados por la energía. Continue lendo

Welcome to the New Third World of Energy, the United States

How Big Energy Companies Plan to Turn the United States into a Third-World Petro-State

Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch, April 2, 2012

The “curse” of oil wealth is a well-known phenomenon in Third World petro-states where millions of lives are wasted in poverty and the environment is ravaged, while tiny elites rake in the energy dollars and corruption rules the land. Recently, North America has been repeatedly hailed as the planet’s twenty-first-century “new Saudi Arabia” for “tough energy” — deep-sea oil, Canadian tar sands, and fracked oil and natural gas. But here’s a question no one considers: Will the oil curse become as familiar on this continent in the wake of a new American energy rush as it is in Africa and elsewhere? Will North America, that is, become not just the next boom continent for energy bonanzas, but a new energy Third World? Continue lendo

America’s Fossil Fuel Fever

Michael Klare, The Nation, February 29, 2012

It was not very long ago that America seemed headed on a path of reduced dependence on fossil fuels—oil, coal and natural gas—and greater reliance on renewable forms of energy, such as wind and solar. “Our addiction to fossil fuels is one of the most serious threats to our national security in the twenty-first century,” Barack Obama declared while campaigning for president in 2008. Not only does the consumption of these fuels contribute to global warming, he argued; it also finances anti-American tyrants and terrorists. Upon entering the White House, Obama announced a series of programs aimed at promoting the transition from fossil fuels to climate-friendly renewables, and his 2009 economic stimulus package provided billions of dollars for green energy projects.

But Obama’s commitment to renewables has wavered in the face of relentless attacks from Republicans in Congress and the economic realities of energy production. While reaffirming the importance of green technology in his recent State of the Union address, he celebrated the growth in domestic oil and gas output and promised to open even more areas to offshore drilling. “Over the last three years,” Obama crowed, “we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources.” So much for viewing fossil fuels as a serious threat to national security. Continue lendo

Energy Wars: The 2012 Edition

Danger Waters: The Three Top Hot Spots of Potential Conflict in the Geo-Energy Era

Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch.com, January 10, 2012

Welcome to an edgy world where a single incident at an energy “chokepoint” could set a region aflame, provoking bloody encounters, boosting oil prices, and putting the global economy at risk. With energy demand on the rise and sources of supply dwindling, we are, in fact, entering a new epoch — the Geo-Energy Era — in which disputes over vital resources will dominate world affairs. In 2012 and beyond, energy and conflict will be bound ever more tightly together, lending increasing importance to the key geographical flashpoints in our resource-constrained world. Continue lendo

Is Washington Out of Gas?

Posted by Michael Klare – TomDispatch, September 15, 2011.

Way back then, the signs out on the streets read: “No Blood for Oil,” “How did USA’s oil get under Iraq’s sand?” and “Don’t trade lives for oil!” Such homemade placards, carried by deluded antiwar protesters in enormous demonstrations before the Bush administration launched its invasion of Iraq in March 2003, were typical — and typically dismissible. Oil? Don’t be silly!

True, Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz spoke admiringly about Iraq “floating on a sea of oil,” but that was just a slip of the tongue. President Bush was so much more cautious. Despite his years in the energy business and those of his vice-president (not to speak of the double-hulled tanker that had been named after his national security advisor while she was on the board of Chevron), he almost never even mentioned oil. When he did, he didn’t call it “oil,” but Iraq’s “patrimony.”

Back then, of course, everyone who mattered knew that whatever the invasion of Iraq was about — freedom, possible mushroom clouds rising over U.S. cities or biological and chemical attacks on them, the felling of a monster dictator — it certainly wasn’t about oil. An oil war? How crude (so to speak), even if Iraq, by utter coincidence, happened to be located in the oil heartlands of the planet. Continue lendo

La crisis energética global se agrava

Tres tendencias en la energía que están cambiando tu vida

Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch / Rebelion, 8 de junio de 2011. Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens

Algunas buenas noticias sobre la energía: gracias al aumento de los precios del petróleo y al deterioro de las condiciones económicas d todo el mundo, la Agencia Internacional de Energía (AIE) informa de que la demanda global de petróleo no aumentará este año tanto como se había estimado, lo que podrá asegurar un cierto alivio temporal de los precios en el surtidor de gasolina. En su Informe sobre el Mercado del Petróleo de mayo, la AIE redujo su cálculo para 2011 del consumo global de petróleo en 190.000 barriles por día, ubicándolo en 89,2 millones de barriles. Como resultado, los precios al por menor podrían no llegar a los niveles estratosféricos predichos para este año, aunque sin duda seguirán siendo más elevados que enunca desde los meses pico de 2008, justo antes de la catástrofe económica global. Recordad que estamos hablando de las buenas noticias.

En cuanto a las malas noticias: el mundo enfrenta un surtido de problemas energéticos difíciles que, en todo caso, han empeorado en las últimas semanas. Estos problemas se están multiplicando a ambos lados de la división geológica clave de la energía: bajo la superficie, reservas otrora abundantes de petróleo “convencional”, gas natural y carbón, fáciles de conseguir, se están acabando; sobre la superficie, los errores de cálculo humanos y la geopolítica limitan la producción y la disponibilidad de suministros específicos de energía. Ya que los problemas aumentan en ambos terrenos, nuestras perspectivas energéticas se están reduciendo. Continue lendo

Energy: the new thirty years’ war

We are heading for a global succeed-or-perish contest among the energy big hitters – but who will be the winners and losers?

Michael Klare, TomDispatch / Guardian, June 29,  2011

A 30-year war for energy pre-eminence? You wouldn’t wish it even on a desperate planet. But that’s where we’re headed, and there’s no turning back.

From 1618 to 1648, Europe was engulfed in a series of intensely brutal conflicts known collectively as the Thirty Years’ War. It was, in part, a struggle between an imperial system of governance and the emerging nation state. Indeed, many historians believe that the modern international system of nation states was crystallised in the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which finally ended the fighting.

Think of us today as embarking on a new Thirty Years’ War. It may not result in as much bloodshed as that of the 1600s, though bloodshed there will be, but it will prove no less momentous for the future of the planet. Over the coming decades, we will be embroiled at a global level in a succeed-or-perish contest among the major forms of energy, the corporations which supply them and the countries that run on them. The question will be: which will dominate the world’s energy supply in the second half of the 21st century? The winners will determine how – and how badly – we live, work, and play in those not-so-distant decades, and will profit enormously as a result. The losers will be cast aside and dismembered. Continue lendo

The Planet Strikes Back

Why We Underestimate the Earth and Overestimate Ourselves

Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch.com, April 14, 2011

In his 2010 book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, environmental scholar and activist Bill McKibben writes of a planet so devastated by global warming that it’s no longer recognizable as the Earth we once inhabited. This is a planet, he predicts, of “melting poles and dying forests and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat.” Altered as it is from the world in which human civilization was born and thrived, it needs a new name — so he gave it that extra “a” in “Eaarth.”

The Eaarth that McKibben describes is a victim, a casualty of humankind’s unrestrained consumption of resources and its heedless emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases. True, this Eaarth will cause pain and suffering to humans as sea levels rise and croplands wither, but as he portrays it, it is essentially a victim of human rapaciousness.

With all due respect to McKibben’s vision, let me offer another perspective on his (and our) Eaarth: as a powerful actor in its own right and as an avenger, rather than simply victim. Continue lendo

Resource Revolts: The Year of Living Dangerously

Rising Commodity Prices and Extreme Weather Events Threaten Global Stability

Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch.com, January 24, 2011

Get ready for a rocky year.  From now on, rising prices, powerful storms, severe droughts and floods, and other unexpected events are likely to play havoc with the fabric of global society, producing chaos and political unrest. Start with a simple fact: the prices of basic food staples are already approaching or exceeding their 2008 peaks, that year when deadly riots erupted in dozens of countries around the world.

It’s not surprising then that food and energy experts are beginning to warn that 2011 could be the year of living dangerously — and so could 2012, 2013, and on into the future.  Add to the soaring cost of the grains that keep so many impoverished people alive a comparable rise in oil prices — again nearing levels not seen since the peak months of 2008 — and you can already hear the first rumblings about the tenuous economic recovery being in danger of imminent collapse.  Think of those rising energy prices as adding further fuel to global discontent. Continue lendo

China, a superpotência energética do século XXI

Se quiserem saber em que direcção está a soprar o vento global (ou a brilhar o sol, ou a queimar o carvão) olhem para a China. As novidades em torno do nosso futuro energético, ou do futuro das grandes potências do planeta, vêm daí.

Michael T. Klare, Esquerda.net, 16 Outubro, 2010

Washington já está a fazê-lo. E está a fazê-lo com uma grande dose de ansiedade. Poucas vezes uma entrevista foi tão reveladora acerca da mudança do poder global a que estamos a assistir no nosso mundo: a 20 de Julho, o principal economista da Agência de Energia Internacional (AEI), Faith Birol, declarou ao Wall Street Journal que a China tinha ultrapassado os Estados Unidos ao transformar-se no primeiro consumidor mundial de energia. Poderíamos ler esta notícia de diversas maneiras: como uma prova da superioridade industrial chinesa; como uma evidência da persistente recessão nos Estados Unidos; como prova da crescente popularidade dos automóveis naquele país oriental; e até como prova de uma maior eficiência energética em comparação com a norte-americana. Todas estas observações seriam válidas. Mas evitariam a questão principal: ao transformar-se no principal consumidor planetário de energia, a China assegurará o seu papel dominante no cenário internacional e determinará o rumo do nosso futuro global. Continue lendo

China, Energy, and Global Power: Twenty-First Century Energy Superpower

Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch.com, September 20, 2010

If you want to know which way the global wind is blowing (or the sun shining or the coal burning), watch China. That’s the news for our energy future and for the future of great-power politics on planet Earth. Washington is already watching — with anxiety.

Rarely has a simple press interview said more about the global power shifts taking place in our world. On July 20th, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol, told the Wall Street Journal that China had overtaken the United States to become the world’s number one energy consumer. One can read this development in many ways: as evidence of China’s continuing industrial prowess, of the lingering recession in the United States, of the growing popularity of automobiles in China, even of America’s superior energy efficiency as compared to that of China. All of these observations are valid, but all miss the main point: by becoming the world’s leading energy consumer, China will also become an ever more dominant international actor and so set the pace in shaping our global future. Continue lendo

Beyond Cheney’s Energy Policy: Clean, Green, Safe, and Smart

Michael T. Klare, The Nation, July 20, 2010

If the ecological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico tells us anything, it is that we need a new national energy policy-a comprehensive plan for escaping our dangerous reliance on fossil fuels and creating a new energy system based on climate-safe alternatives. Without such a plan, the response to the disaster will be a hodgepodge of regulatory reforms and toughened environmental safeguards but not a fundamental shift in behavior.

Because our current energy path leads toward greater reliance on fuels acquired from environmentally and politically hazardous locations, no amount of enhanced oversight or stiffened regulations can avert future disasters like that unfolding in the gulf. Only a dramatic change in course-governed by an entirely new policy framework-can reduce the risk of catastrophe and set the nation on a wise energy trajectory. Continue lendo

Vendrán más pesadillas energéticas al estilo de BP

Cuatro panoramas para el próximo mega-desastre energético

Michael Klare, TomDispatch /  Rebelion, 27 de junio de 2010. Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Germán Leyens Continue lendo