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The endless oil war

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Unread 08.19.15, 04:43 AM
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The endless oil war

08.18.15 09:01 PM

“Yes, here the Germans sit at the heart of Europe, Henry, these perplexing first cousins of ours, simmering and grumbling away, and every now and then they spill over in all directions, with a hideous roar.” — “Winds of War,” Herman Wouk

Capt. H.R. McMaster felt a shiver go through him.

He discounted it for the chilled air that was blowing over the Kuwaiti desert, but part of McMaster knew it was more. It was his nerves. He was commanding Eagle Troop’s 10 M1 Abrams tanks along the heights. He was at the tip of the spear.

McMaster was born and bred for this. A third generation of distinguished military men, he had graduated West Point in 1984. But commanding his lead tank, he was alone in his thoughts, wondering, when push came to blood, whether he and his men would respond with distinction.

It was Feb. 27, 1991 and his Eagle Troop was moments away from going toe to toe with Saddam Hussein’s best, the Republican Guard and its notorious Soviet T-72 tanks.

H.R., as his friends had called him since he was a boy, didn’t know why his unit was set to unleash hell on the Iraq Army. It might have been in the name of democracy; it might have been to save Kuwaiti babies snatched from their incubators days after the invasion before the administration announced its official response with President George H.W. Bush’s famous “Line in the Sand” speech.

But even at that moment, the U.S. government still seemed uncertain as to what exactly needed to be done.

But the belief that something had to be done was decided.

But what really put the fear of God into the United States was that without military intervention, there was little to stop Saddam from moving into Saudi Arabia. That would give the Iraqi dictator control of nearly half of OPEC’s oil production and ownership of almost half the world’s oil reserves.

On Sept. 11, 1990, five weeks after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and exactly 11 years before 9/11, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney told the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Our strategic interests in the Persian Gulf region, I think, are well known, but bear repeating.”

In addition to other security ties to Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, the future vice president said: “We obviously also have a significant interest because of the energy that is at stake in the gulf.”

Cheney added that Iraq possessed 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves and acquired another 10 percent by seizing Kuwait. The occupation of Kuwait also placed Iraqi forces within a few hundred miles of another 25 percent of the world’s oil beneath the Saudi Arabian desert:
Once [Saddam Hussein] acquired Kuwait and deployed his army as large as the one he possesses, he was clearly in a position to be able to dictate the future of worldwide energy policy, and that gave him a stranglehold on our oil.

It is still up for grabs whose oil it is. But during the presidential primary season, there is little word from the nominees for the White House about their plans to end what seems to be an unstoppable religious civil war. Any easy solutions seem long gone. With ISIS and other just-as-brutal jihadists, it appears to me at least that it won’t have lasting peace in my lifetime, and I’m not yet 60.

Every tribe, jihadist and nation wants open access to Middle Eastern crude. The intrinsic qualities of crude oil make it unlike any other energy source in the world. It is easily extractable, transportable and versatile. In fact, its inherent oil chemical properties make it the king of energy. Oil generates 2.5 times more energy than coal of equal cost.

A decade ago, Walter Youngquist published a report titled “Post-Petroleum Paradigm.”

In it, Youngquist concluded that there is no known complete substitute for “petroleum in its many and varied uses.”

There are dozens of everyday applications for petroleum but none more important than its use in farming, used extensively to make fertilizers and pesticides. Lose petroleum, and you lose the guts within fertilizers and pesticides, says Youngquist, who calculated that without petroleum, the typical corn harvest would be 30 bushels an acre instead of 130 bushels.

Yours in good times and bad,

–John Myers

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