Imperialism and fossil fuels

This is a speech from a local peace rally on Sunday local peace rally on Sunday.


Hi everyone,
I’m Toban.

Today I’ll be speaking about causes of war—specifically, about oil and natural gas interests in and around the so-called war on ‘terror.’

It’s clear that efforts to gain further control over fossil fuel reserves in—and also near— the Middle East are one of the important factors at the root of this war. The main targets of this war on ‘terror’ are in the Persian Gulf, where about two-thirds of the world’s oil and natural gas reserves are located—in Iraq, in Iran, and in surrounding nations.

But before I say more about all of this, I’m going to stress that this U.S.-led war definitely is not just a matter of “blood for oil” & gas:

  • In and around this war there has also been a wave of neoliberalism—in efforts to smooth the flow of trade across borders, while attacking state programs and services (including state control of incredibly valuable oil & gas in Iraq, and in other nations in the area).
  • Arms industry interests also have pressed the U.S. state toward ongoing war so governments will continue to buy missiles, helicopters, and other combat technologies. And military elites seek this equipment, as well as more and more funding.
  • In addition, there has been an upsurge of racist hatred toward so-called ‘Arabs’—toward various ethnicities and nationalities who have been lumped together in that category and then dehumanized and demonized.
  • Likewise, our Muslim sisters and our Muslim brothers have been targeted—with a crusade mentality—from an influential segment of Christians who think or, at least claim, that they are combating evil by attacking Muslims.
  • And American allies have been pulled into this conflict by Zionists seeking further U.S.(-led) intervention in the Middle East to support Israeli state efforts to oppress and assault Palestinians—in the face of opposition from other nations in the area.
  • And as with other warfare, there also has been macho-masculine militarism in and around the so-called war on ‘terror.’
  • Mainstream media also have, in so many ways, supported and promoted war—in general. Conflict is presented as entertainment—whether it’s in Hollywood action movies or in the so-called ‘news’—so war is made to seem attractive. In these respects, and in many other ways, mainstream media are bound up with the status quo—including the imperialism that I’ve started to describe here.

And then there are the oil and natural gas interests -
Whether they know it or not, the soldiers fighting the war on ‘terror’ are caught up in efforts to gain additional control over oil and gas supplies in and around the Persian Gulf.
Those goals were spelled out in a May 2001 U.S. energy policy document which declares that “The Gulf will be a primary focus of U.S. international energy policy.” This U.S. policy document also, in the authors’ words, “recommends that the President make energy security a priority of our trade and foreign policy.”
(In the online version of this speech I’ll add more U.S. government statements about fossil fuel policies.)
While Iraq and the rest of the Persian Gulf nations have been the focal point of this foreign energy policy, nearby northern Africa and the nearby Caspian region have been important targets as well. There also are ongoing efforts to install a “Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline” to transport from the Caspian region.

Various fossil fuel interests underlie U.S.-led intervention in these areas:

  • In part—through the so-called war on ‘terror,’ and associated foreign energy policy—there have been efforts to extend fossil fuel exports—for Americans and other predominant international interests. Fossil fuels continue to be essential to economies, to militaries, and to many other activities and domains in leading nations.
  • Very powerful fossil fuel company interests also have been seeking to claim further supplies for themselves. These companies are running out of their lifeblood—their oil & gas. The supplies of these fuels in the Gulf are particularly profitable (provided that associated military expenses aren’t taken into account), as this oil and gas is more readily available, given that more accessible supplies elsewhere have been depleted more rapidly. It is more difficult to find, extract, and refine remaining oil and gas supplies outside of the Gulf (and some surrounding areas).
  • Gaining additional control over Persian Gulf nations also would allow U.S.-led forces to break the back of OPEC, which has (seemingly, at least) presented a unified front in the face of the United States and other leading nations.

These fossil fuel interests I’ve summarized have been one important factor in driving aggressive intervention in the Middle East.

So despite how fossil fuel dependencies are tied to global warming, to oil & gas depletion (including world “peak oil”), to smog, to ongoing oil spills, and to other environmental problems, leading interests are not challenging oil & gas consumption. Instead, efforts are underway to prolong these dependencies, and to control oil & gas supplies—through warfare, and through other means.

Organized opposition to war—for peace—must confront fossil fuel dependencies, and other demands for outside ecosystem materials (such as fresh water supplies). Otherwise there will be various forms of imperialism—through companies, through governments, and other major centres of the international order. While there is a drive to end Middle Eastern state control of Gulf fossil fuels, Canadian mining companies are aggressively tearing up South & Central America while claiming these ‘Southern’ lands for themselves—and this is but one other example. This imperialism, and environmental dependencies that are an important part of it, have been escalating (through an ongoing nuclear arms race, for instance) . We must de-escalate these conflicts and these demands.

If we are to bring peace to the world, we must confront the root causes of the wars and imperialism around us (rather than just Bush jr., Harper, and other individuals).

We don’t have to resign ourselves to just making this world a little less awful, and to saving the odd victim. No. We can end war, and we can end imperialism—while bringing about and sustaining greater peace and social justice. But to achieve all of this, we must re-make our world. Fundamental changes will be necessary. We’ll also need to exercise our imaginations. In other words, we’ll have to stop being so conservative.
We also will have to co-operatively organize—through movements, and other organized challenges to imperialism and the status quo.
Committing to ending fossil fuel dependencies—and soon—could be one focal point… one common goal… one pillar… of these organized efforts.
We should have several of those shared goals.
I think that we should be able to agree to immediately end fossil fuel dependencies. So let’s do it. Let’s make it happen.

Thank you.


(As I said that day, I plan to add additional material — including viewing & reading recommendations, and web links — to the online version of the speech. Hopefully I’ll find the time to do that soon, but I’ve been very preoccupied, so I’ve decided to post this version of the speech to a local web site first.)

(Note: I was not speaking as a representative of Post-Carbon London (Ontario), a group I have been a key member of which addresses some of these issues–but in a much different way)

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