Oil, War, and Geopolitics: The Global Struggle Over Disappearing Petroleum

Thursday, February 22, 2007
Klare Poster
7:00 p.m. – Stern Center, Great Room
Michael Klare, Five Colleges professor of peace and world security studies

As we move deeper into the 21st century, the global demand for energy in all its forms is rising at breakneck speed, but the global supply is failing to keep pace, producing intensified competition between the major consuming nations — especially the United States, China, Japan, and the European powers — for access to the available supply. On top of this, the center of gravity of world energy output is moving inexorably from the Global North to the Global South, producing increased anxiety and uncertainty over the reliability and safety of international energy shipments. Both of these trends are contributing to the increased militarization of energy policy. Unless more is done to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbons, we can expect a global epidemic of “resource wars” over oil and other sources of energy.
Co-sponsored by Environmental Science, International Studies, International Business & Management, and Political Science.

Issue in Context

The actions of the U.S. in the Middle East during the past twenty years have been the subject of considerable debate. In his 2001 article “Geopolitics of War” in “The Nation,” Klare suggests that the best way to understand the American political and military presence in the Middle East is to trace the connections to the region’s oil resources. American policy on the Middle East, Klare suggests, is guided not as much by a conflict of world views as by geopolitical competition over the procurement of oil supplies.

Further escalating the tensions over petroleum are calls from energy experts predicting that oil reserves will soon taper off, sending many countries scrambling for resources and focusing foreign relations initiatives on its discovery and use. Industrial economies are especially vulnerable, as are countries that are significant energy consumers. An example of this tension is the rocky relations between central European nations, such as Belarus, Poland, and Germany, which rely on oil pipelines from Russia. As the greatest consumer of oil worldwide, the U.S. is a central nation in this issue.

About the Speaker

Michael T. Klare is director and professor in the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies at Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Previously, he served as director of the Program on Militarism and Disarmament at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C.

Klare has written extensively on U.S. defense policy, the arms trade, and world security affairs. He authored Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict and Rogue States and Nuclear Outlaws and edited Light Weapons and Civil Conflict: Controlling the Tools of Violence. His newest book is Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum. Klare has contributed articles to “Arms Control Today,” “Foreign Affairs,” and “Harper’s,” among others . He is the defense correspondent for “The Nation” and a contributing editor of “Current History.” He also serves on the board of the Arms Control Association and the National Priorities Project. Klare is one of the most well-regarded critical analysts of contemporary resource wars.

Michael Klare received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Columbia University and his Ph.D. from the Graduate School of the Union Institute.

Related Readings
BBC on “Oil and Conflict – a Natural Mix”
“U.S. Policy Entangled by Rising Price of Oil” on IHT
Michael Klare on Global Warming and Energy

Books authored by Michael Klare are available at the Waidner-Spahr Library.