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Monday, May 01, 2006

A Battle For Oil Could Set the World Aflame

International powers will do everything to protect their access to dwindling resources. We are mad not to have an alternative strategy
by Will Hutton
The �1 litre of petrol is already a reality on some forecourts. Yet the public response has been curiously muted. No threats of national protests or blockaded tanker depots. There's an air of resignation. We've been pulverised into learning our lesson: we can't buck the market with the $70 plus barrel of oil, so there is nothing to do except pay up.
There is nothing like the same mood in the United States. There, petrol crashed through the psychological barrier of $3 a gallon; cheap gas, the sacred right of every free-born America, is no more. In Washington, Republicans and Democrats outbid each other with their respective energy plans, all distancing themselves from the energy policy-free zone of do-nothing George W Bush. The US, after all, has no commitment whatsoever to the idea that states and peoples must supinely accept market verdicts. Markets, it is well understood, are shaped by human hand.
It has a strategic oil reserve built up over years that would give it three months' supply in the event of war or natural disaster and which Bush manipulated last week to try to lower the oil price. It has supported Saudi Arabia through thick and thin. The 281 ships and half-a-million members of the US navy, larger than those of the next 17 naval nations combined, guarantee the security of the country's oil supply. The discourse is so different from ours that it is head-spinning.


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