On Global Politics and Petropolitics

Part II: Petropolitical leadership

, by Fernando A. Iglesias

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

On Global Politics and Petropolitics

How many billion dollars have the big oil companies spent in financing campaigns that presented nuclear energy as a too dangerous option? How much money for presenting bio-fuels and hydrogen as if they were good only for science-fiction books? How many dollars in delaying investigations on alternative sources of energy? How much in obstructing the development of democratic global institutions that could – say – establish a world-wide tax on fossil fuels and provide monetary resources to the investigation, development and application of renewable and non-polluting sources?

Petropolitical leadership

Conspiracy or not, the certain thing is that we live in a world that has become completely different from the early-20th-century industrial era, but in which fossil fuels continue to be the basic source of energy. Significantly, the only sector in which the technological revolution has not fulfilled its promises, the energy sector, has generated a Petropolitical nucleus of pre-industrial nationalistic nature that has spread like cancer during the last decade.

Let us look at the map of the world: the first oil exporter is Saudi Arabia, a country dominated by an absolute monarchy, in the region where Osama Bin Laden was born; the second is Russia, a country presided over by the former KGB boss Vladimir Putin; the fourth is Iran, led by the belligerent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the fifth is Venezuela, whose leader is the authoritarian Colonel Chávez; at the sixth place are the feudal United Arab Emirates; the seventh is dynastic Kuwait; the eighth is the devastated Nigeria; the tenth is the Algeria of the criminal Muslim Brothers; the eleventh is Iraq, that was a private property of Saddam Hussein and the twelfth is Libya that is still Muammar Gaddafi’s property.

This list matches the greatest warlike conflicts of the last decades and the most authoritarian regimes, which allow us to understand the true dimensions that Petropolitics assumes. Yet, it is not all. Symptomatically, the national character of companies (which is an anachronistic relic of national-industrialist times) is a generalized feature of the oil sector. Exxon, Chevron, BP and Repsol (from the First-world), as well as PDVSA and Petrobras (from the Third-world) are basically national corporations. Bi-national (English-Dutch) Shell is the insurmountable maximum of cosmopolitanism that big oil corporations have reached for the time being. In addition, the national list of oil producers shows the United States in the third position and the United Kingdom in the thirteenth. No need to say that these nations – whose oil companies dominate the global market – have led the disastrous invasion of Iraq, thus acceding to the control of the second largest oil reserve in the world and generating a rise of the price of oil that has made the fortune of the Petropolitical sector. Is this a mere chance or is it the fulfilled demonstration of a cause-effect relationship that affects advanced countries too?

A new global political polarity

Petropolitics has invaded national policies by placing reactionary leaders linked to corporative powers and nationalistic-industrialist conceptions at the head of national structures.

This is exactly the role that the Bush dynasty has played in the United States. Also the misfortune of Tony Blair, the man who was the most promising progressive leader of the advanced world, originated in the disasters generated by the Petropolitics kingdom.

When political analysts observe that the USA has been split into two divergent social universes: hyper-connected, cosmopolitan and progressive coasts mostly dedicated to symbolic production, where Democrats always win, and a disconnected, nationalistic and reactionary countryside, mostly dedicated to agrarian and manufacturing jobs, which always vote for Bush and the Republicans, this is nothing but the confirmation of Toffler’s prediction. It simply means that the 21st century has entered America in the form of a fight for hegemony between the Second and the Third wave, that somehow reminds of the fight between the industrial North and the rural South during the 19th century.

A US-only phenomenon? Not at all. Latin America’s political scenario is also getting polarized by tensions between – on the one hand – Colonel Chávez (Venezuela) and his allies Morales (Bolivia) and Correa (Ecuador) (the three are presidents of the only South American nations where oil and gas are the predominant economic resources), and – on the other hand – the other governors of the subcontinent. Argentina, the other country where nationalism and authoritarianism have recently spread (although to a lesser extent), has – for the first time in its history – a president coming from a region (Patagonia) that concentrates 84% of the national oil production.

Nonetheless, Petropoltics is not just a South- plus North-American dilemma. The tension between nationalistic industrialism and the post-industrial world has become visible worldwide as a global polarity. Now, Petropolitical sheikhs who pretend to govern the world are facing a coalition of forces (its most powerful elements being the European Union, Japan and Canada) that are basically favourable to global agreements on environmental and financial regulations, that support the reinforcement of supranational institutions (such as the European Union, the International Criminal Court and the UN), and strongly oppose Petropolitical unilateralism and militarism.

Oil has replaced carbon as the main source of energy and the central raison-d’être of authoritarianism and war. In this sense, it should be reminded that the French-German dispute for coal was at the base of two world wars and that its settlement through the creation of the Coal and Steel Community was the advent of an uninterrupted period of peace and prosperity for Europe. If the future has to have a chance in the face of the forces of the past and if the third wave has to prevail over the second and first ones, world federalism and global democracy have to see to the pacific defeat of the Petropolitical nucleus of power. May the world follow Europe and use the lessons on political unity given by the 20th century to abolish Petropolitics.

This article was originally published in the November 2007 edition of The Federalist Debate, Papers for Federalists in Europe and the World.

Image taken from Google Images

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