II in FTW's Series on the End of the Age of Oil -
Reduction of 3 Billion A Global Necessity?
Will Be the Next Target of the Oil Coup?
Dale Allen Pfeiffer
January 29, 2002 -- If it is true that an oil coup has taken
control in this country and is seeking to consolidate its
power throughout the world, based on the fact that world
oil and natural gas production are set to go into decline,
then what does this hold for the future? Using this as our
hypothesis, we should be able to predict future military
actions by comparing production profiles for various oil
producing countries with the political climate within these
same countries. For this purpose, we are using production
profiles developed by Richard C. Duncan and Walter Youngquist
through the use of their World Oil Forecasting Program in
1998.1 The data has changed very little since that time,
except for a slight upgrade in projected Caspian Sea oil
reserves and a slightly higher than projected oil demand.
In addition to oil production there are also other factors
which need to be taken into account, such as other resource
deposits, demand, and population. Not all of these factors
are as well documented as oil production, and so we will
use this as our focal point, adding in other information
we have to wonder not only about the motives of this supposed
oil coup, but we also need to speculate on whether the perpetrators
fully understand the implications of energy depletion. In
other words, will they be able to hold on to their power
in the face of the breakdown of civilization? And what might
they do if they thought they were losing control?
let us look at the situation in North America, as reported
by Duncan and Youngquist.
American Oil Production
United States was the first country to peak in its oil
back in 1970. The United States exploited its oil to provide
the standard of living enjoyed today. However, after 1970
the continuation of this standard of living has depended
upon increasing imports of oil. Notice the slight raising
and leveling off of the production curve in the early 1980s
as oil from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska was brought on line. The
Prudhoe Bay fields peaked in 1985 and have been in decline
since. At one time, the USA had abundant, easily exploited
oil reserves -- production peaked at over 4 billion barrels
per year -- but those days are behind us now. Even the
National Wildlife Arctic Reserves (ANWAR) will make little
difference to this picture.
long after the United States peak, resources in Mexico and
Canada came on line, providing some salvation in the regional
picture. However, the resources of both countries taken
at their peaks do not equal the peak production of the United
States. Mexico peaked a year ago, while Canada is not expected
to peak for another 10 years.
the overall regional picture, you can see the United States
peak in 1970, followed by a short decline and then a recovery.
As a region, North America peaked in 1985. After a slight
secondary peak taking place right now, North American oil
production is expected to plummet. The only untapped reserves
left in this region are in ANWAR, and their affect would
be negligible on this graph. Tar sands and shale deposits
in Canada may contain the equivalent of more than 150 billion
barrels of oil which could theoretically become economical
to produce once conventional deposits are in decline. However,
it is unlikely that production can be brought on line quickly
enough to offset the shock of conventional oil depletion.2
Beyond this, there are grave environmental problems associated
with the exploitation of these deposits. Namely, the tar
sands and oil shales can only be harvested through massive
strip mining. And, once the oil has been extracted, there
will be literally thousands of tons of sand and shale slag
to be dealt with, not to mention other more harmful wastes.
are We to Turn?
to what you might think, the United States does not receive
the bulk of its oil imports from the Middle East. Thus far,
our oil imports have come from South and Central America,
chiefly Venezuela and Colombia. Venezuela alone accounts
for more than 53% of the oil in this region.3 However, Venezuelan
oil production already appears to be peaking a little sooner
than Duncan and Youngquist's program predicted.
also holds what is perhaps the world's greatest deposit
of unconventional oil: the Orinoco oil belt, which contains
an estimated 1.2 trillion barrels of the sludge known as
heavy oil. This is a great resource; however, it is known
as heavy sludge because it is highly contaminated by sulfur
and heavy metals. The removal and disposal of these elements
would have to be attained without destroying the economic
viability of the deposits. And, as with the Canadian oil
sands, such a project is unlikely to be brought on line
in time to offset the shock of declining oil production.
oil deposits are predicted to peak around 2010. Unfortunately,
they are unlikely to produce more than one third of a billion
barrels per day at peak. There is currently a lot of speculation
about a major oil strike in the southeastern foothills of
Colombia's Andes. Geologists in the area have made some
interesting discoveries, but nothing has been confirmed
as of yet. It has long been suspected that a major field
must exist somewhere between the Venezuelan oil fields and
the oil shales of the Peruvian Andes. Yet, with all our
modern probing, this field has failed to turn up. This author
suspects that exploration in Colombia will turn up no new,
major oil fields -- though it may turn up minor deposits.
This author suspects that the mother lode of South American
hydrocarbon deposits has already been found, in the form
of the Orinoco heavy oil sludge.
any case, it is quite plain the United States needs the
oil of this region. And production of these oil resources
is threatened by political instabilities. Colombia is a
divided country rocked by over 50 years of civil war. And
Venezuela has also become increasingly unstable in just
the past year. President Hugo Chavez has been bucking US
imperialism and oil interests for some time now. A new Hydrocarbons
Law, which took effect at the beginning of 2002, will require
that state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA hold a minimum
51% stake in future joint ventures involving exploration
and exploitation. And the law will impose the world's highest
royalty rates on companies operating in Venezuela's oil
fields. President Chavez insists that such a move is necessary
to rescue the Venezuelan economy and to help ease poverty
in the country. Similar moves toward nationalization in
the past led to US backed coups in Guatemala and Iran, to
site just two examples.4 Early in November 2001, the National
Security Agency, the Pentagon and the US State Department
held a two-day meeting on US policy toward Venezuela. This
meeting was supposedly held in response to a Chavez statement
that the US was fighting "terrorism with terrorism." It
is quite likely that among the options discussed at this
meeting was a coup against Chavez.5 Elsewhere in South America,
Ecuador almost fell a year ago to a grassroots coalition
of peasants and Indians. Farther south, Bolivia has been
destabilized by a peasants' revolt sparked by privatization
of their water supply. Even farther south, in Argentina,
the economy has crashed and the government has dissolved.
People are rioting and looting grocery stores. Brazil has
been economically shaken by the fall of Argentina and by
the growing strength of the MST -- the landless peasant
movement. In fact, it would be difficult to find a truly
stable government anywhere in South America at this time.
Clinton and Bush II, the United States has poured billions
worth of military aid into Colombia, ostensibly to fight
the drug war, though our support has gone to military and
paramilitary units rife with drug trafficking. The US is
currently sponsoring a massive defoliation program in Colombia,
and we are increasing the number of US military advisors
in the country. FARC, the rebel force which controls half
of the country, has pledged to target US personnel. And
there is word from the state department, since September
11th, that we will consider rebel forces in Colombia to
be international terrorists. This author looks for a terrorist/drug
war in Colombia which will probably spill over into Venezuela
and Ecuador, maybe even Peru. A war in this region will
be long and bloody, and may make Vietnam look like a Sunday
Former Soviet Union
lumped together under the title Former Soviet Union, we
have not only Russia proper, but also Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
Kazakhstan and the Caspian Sea region. This graph is probably
the least accurate of Duncan and Youngquist's predictions,
due to lack of data at the time they modeled this graph
and also due to exigencies of politics and economics. Duncan
and Youngquist did under-assess the Caspian Sea resources,
though the correct figures make little difference in their
overall world predictions. Most importantly, they did not
figure on Russia opening up oil production and exportation
to the extent that it has at present, purely due to economic
oil coup has already moved in this region -- the attack
on Afghanistan only being the most visible evidence of this.
Perhaps more importantly for their interests, the Central
Asian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan
have opened their countries to the presence of NATO forces.
Bases have already been established in all of these countries.
It is certain that deals have also been hammered out with
these countries for the exploitation of their oil and natural
is also very likely that the oil coup has its eyes on Russia
itself. In this case, Russia's nuclear might precludes an
overt attack. Through the 1990s, western financiers looted
the Russian economy until there was hardly anything left.
At present, Putin has no choice but to open up oil exports
just to keep his government solvent. Russian President Vladimir
Putin has placed himself as a vassal to the oil coup; however,
he is not entirely happy with the actions of the western
states. Bush's rush for a missile defense system would negate
Russia's last claim to superpower. We can only hope that
the oil coup is not foolish enough to provoke a nuclear
war with Russia.
is in the Middle East that the real grab for world power
will be played out. According to Duncan and Youngquist's
model, by 2007 the Middle East will dominate the world in
oil production. This will be the last region where oil production
will peak, according to Duncan and Youngquist's model, sometime
around 2011. And the oil of the Middle East lies largely
in the provinces of five countries: Iran, Iraq, The United
Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
but two of these countries are closely tied to the United
States and are likely to be players in the oil coup. The
exceptions are Iraq and Iran. Iraq's ability to export oil
has been severely restricted since the first Gulf War. Likewise,
Iran faced stiff embargoes following the fall of the Shah
in the 1970's. However, in neither of these countries does
the oil coup have clear control over oil resources. Likewise,
both countries are targeted as terrorist states. Right now,
Israel and powers in the United States are lobbying strongly
to make Iraq the next target in the "War Against Terrorism."
Rumor has it that this war is slated to begin early in 2002.
This author would suggest that, after finishing off Saddam
Hussein, the oil coup will then set its sites on Iran. We
can say with certainty that the oil coup will want to have
both these countries firmly in control before the OPEC crossover
how stable are the governments of the other three major
Arab states? The Saudi royals sit very uneasily on their
throne. The hundreds of princes which make up the house
of Fahd are extremely unpopular due to their own corruption„both
economic and moral. National Security Agency electronic
intercepts demonstrate that the Saudi princes routinely
pay protection money to Islamic extremists, including Hamas
and Al Qa'ida. NSA and CIA analysts have noted that it would
not take much for an Islamic fundamentalist coup to overthrow
the royals. Likewise, a secret CIA study put together in
the mid-1980s concludes that terrorists with only a handful
of explosives could take the Saudi oil fields off line for
oil producing Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait,
have all seen large population increases since they began
pumping oil. In a couple of generations, they have gone
from being simple nomadic peoples to sophisticated urbanites.
All of these countries have highly developed welfare states
financed by oil money. Unfortunately for them, the rate
of population growth has exceeded their ability to financially
support the population. It is for this reason that the Arab
countries were exceeding their oil quotas throughout the
late-1990s, in an effort to cover the expenses of their
welfare systems. And let us not forget that these are all
desert nations. By the year 2020, all of these countries
will have passed peak oil production and be in decline.
By that time, none of them will be able to support their
populations.6 The result will be starvation, economic disaster
and civil unrest. How will the oil coup hope to hold this
on the analysis presented above, we believe that the most
likely targets in the "War on Terrorism" will be Iraq, Iran,
Colombia, Venezuela, and possibly (though hopefully not)
Russia. That there will be actions in other theatres is
certain. It is very likely that Somalia will be targeted
soon. And, as they hold the world's richest deposit of uranium,
Somalia is not without valuable resources. Other Middle
Eastern or Central Asian nations not mentioned here could
also be targeted for a number of reasons, energy resources
among them. Likewise Indonesia, if that country became too
unstable. Then there are actions which could be strictly
political, or which could be viewed as vendettas. North
Korea, the Philippines, and Cuba could fall into this category.
Yet, it is FTW's belief that the main targets for military
action in the years to come will be those stated in the
first sentence of this paragraph.
the oil coup be successful? That is to be doubted. Just
as the Middle Eastern countries can expect problems because
their population will surpass their ability to care for
them, so will the rest of the world. The entire civilization
is apt to break down chaotically, in ways that no one can
foresee. Possibly the greatest single problem resulting
from all this will be the failure of modern agriculture.
Without petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, experts
predict that world agriculture will only be able to comfortably
support a population of two billion.7 The current world
population is over six billion.
will the members of the oil coup do when they realize they
are losing control? If faced with starving, angry masses
throughout the world„in the first world as well as the third
world -- what would be the response of the oil coup? Would
they roll over and die, or would they strike back with everything
available? It is truly to be hoped that they do not foresee
this contingency, or they may decide to unleash biological
warfare on the population of the entire world.
THE WORLD PETROLEUM LIFE-CYCLE, Richard C. Duncan and Walter
Youngquist. Presented at the PTTC Workshop "OPEC Oil
Pricing and Independent Oil Producers," Petroleum Technology
Transfer Council Petroleum Engineering Program, University
of Southern California, Los Angeles, California; October
A PDF Version of this paper is available at
THE END OF CHEAP OIL, by Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherr²re,
Scientific American, March 1998.
CONTENTIOUS NEW VENEZUELAN OIL LAW ENTERS INTO EFFECT. AP,
1 January 2002.
KILLING HOPE; US MILITARY AND CIA INTERVENTIONS SINCE WORLD
WAR II, by William Blum. Common Courage Press, 1995. http://members.aol.com/bblum6/
US COOKING UP A COUP IN VENEZUELA? by Conn Hallinan. San
Francisco Examiner, 12/28/2001. http://www.examiner.com/sfx/templates/printer.jsp?
KING'S RANSOM: HOW VULNERABLE ARE THE SAUDI ROYALS? by Seymour
M. Hersh. The New Yorker, October 22, 2001.
THE POST-PETROLEUM PARADIGM -- AND POPULATION, WALTER YOUNGQUIST.
POPULATION AND ENVIRONMENT: A JOURNAL OF INTERDISCIPLINARY
STUDIES Volume 20, Number 4, March 1999 © 1999 Human Sciences
Allen Pfeiffer is a Michigan structural geologist, activist,
and novelist. He can be reached at: