(Book review to be published in issue 3 in 2011 of the "International Problems Journal". Translated from Serbian)
Beyond Oil Bust: Investigating Oil Economics, Society and Geopolitics
James Leigh and Predrag Vuković,
Atlantic Publishers, New Delhi, 2011,
In the last couple of years many books and articles have been published here in Serbia and abroad where research has been undertaken regarding the causes and the consequences of the strong downturn in the world economy in the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The question that is being asked is to what extent the global economic crisis will lead to broader geopolitical changes.
In their recently published book ‘Beyond Oil Bust’ two researchers of the University of Nicosia James Leigh and Predrag Vukovic analyze the dramatic changes in the supply and demand of one of the most important sources of energy, oil, and they point to possible negative repercussions for the geopolitical map of the world. The authors first of all analyze the role of oil in the world economy starting from the first years of the twentieth century till today. It points to the fact that cheap oil was the basis that formed the overall development of the world economy – industry, mining, road, maritime and plane traffic, car manufacture, and cultivation of agriculture. It is almost unimaginable to point to a sector in which oil is not the energy progenitor or main energy input. The overall industrial society is built on the basis of one main source of energy – oil.
The authors point out that with a serious fall in the supply of oil, the overall world production, together with today’s developed high technologies, could possibly lead to the collapse of the world economy which will lead to serious geopolitical consequences. It is pointed out that it is inevitable to search for alternate sources of energy in order to avoid catastrophic consequences.
For now there are no acceptable alternate sources of energy which could replace crude oil, and even if there are some attempts to move to alternate sources, they are for many reasons problematic. The infrastructure of any alternative project requires an enormous amount of capital, in some cases it is followed by enormous risks – atomic energy; some other alternate sources have a very low, even negative, net gain, so they are not even worth the effort.
The authors point out that what presents the major problem, is the fact that oil exploitation is reaching its peak.
Already now some important sources of oil are completely exhausted, and for new possible sources (which are not as rich) a minimum of 12 to 15 years is required for them to be built and equipped, as the authors point out, this would be too late to compensate for the lack of oil.
The exhaustion of oil supplies in most oil producing countries takes on such proportions that in the following couple of decades one could expect that the world is left with no oil. The second phenomenon which can lead to unwanted consequences is that in the last decade most of the oil supply has been in the hands of Islamic states around the Persian Gulf. The fact that a high level of oil production is reported in these countries and that these countries hold the highest level of oil reserves could be of extreme importance. This new petropower could lead to certain geopolitical changes in the case that oil is used as an economic and political weapon. It is highly possible that the apocalyptic calls of militant Islamism that are coming out of Iran could unify the Shia and the Sunni in the region with the overall aim being the creation of an Islamic caliphate. The world due to this is faced with a redistribution of power. The existing multi-polar world is faced with a new super power consisting of an Islamic bloc of states that are rich in oil and which could fall under the dominance of Iran. The remaining super powers will fight to sustain their oil imports from these countries even if it requires military force and conquest.
In the long term there could be catastrophic consequences on the oil market because even in the countries with rich oil reserves, in a few decades oil production in these countries could reach its peak and what will follow will be production decline. A fall in oil production will lead to increasing oil prices, which will harm all aspects of modern civilization, which would all together lead to serious economic, political, social and geopolitical repercussions. If our civilization becomes paralyzed because of these consequences, the authors do not exclude the possibility of large-scale military conflict. The authors conclude that it is necessary to build completely new technologies and find new sources of energy, in order to establish a new and sustainable society. In this study the authors have revealed many challenges that todays’ civilization faces, they have sought to present a new vision of the world that needs to be achieved if mankind wants to avoid a general cataclysm. The causes of the situation that the world finds itself in are presented, but it seems that we must still search for their cures.
Prof. Dr. Brana Markovic is Editor in Chief of the “International Problems", A Journal of the Institute of International Politics and Economics, Belgrade, Serbia
This book is a frank, even stark investigation into the dwindling crude oil supply of “Peak Oil”, and its economics, societal implications and geopolitics.
For many this book will be an eye-opener to begin to see the critical point that world civilization is coming to, when increasing scarcity of dwindling oil supplies will push oil prices to new highs, leading to not only oil shortage, but energy shortage across the board. According to “The Olduvai Theory” this will have dire implications for the quintessential energy of our modern economies – electricity. Actually without oil we will not have electricity and that critical link, realized only by a few, will become abundantly clear in the book.
In these dramatic developments there will be serious economic, political, societal and geopolitical ramifications. Our civilizations will become paralyzed leading to full scale military conflict.
Out of this axial period of human civilization a new society – reorganized with enlightened human attitudes – will have to arise if humans are to avoid universal cataclysm.
This book is vital reading to understand the portent of current trends associated with oil supply and demand. If we are right, we should all be prepared for the years ahead, with dramatic world events, to drastically change both our civilization and our own lives.
“Beyond Oil Bust” is eye-opening – a shocking insight into the geopolitical role of oil. Following up on earlier work, the authors proclaim grave threats to western dominance, due to loss of control over its major economic driving force: oil. The book outlines a world as it may be, driven by an ongoing clash of civilizations; nevertheless this is far from fiction as shown by the current tremendous changes in the Arab world. A visionary, geopolitically ambitious and impressive piece of work.
Prof. Dr. Werner Gronau
University of Stralsund, Germany