Michael T. Klare

Michael T. Klare is a professor at Hampshire College and an author, most recently, of The Race for What's Left.

21st century energy superpower: China, energy, and global power

If you want to know which way the global wind is blowing (or the sun shining or the coal burning), watch China. That's the news for our energy future and for the future of great-power politics on planet Earth. Washington is already watching -- with anxiety.

BPrepared

Four BP-style extreme energy nightmares to come

The Gulf nightmare.Photo: Department of EnergyThis essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. On June 15, in their …

A new oil rush endangers the Gulf of Mexico and the planet

The oil spill viewed from NASA’s Terra satellite on May 17.Photo: NASA’s Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team Cross-posted from TomDispatch. Yes, the oil spewing …

China’s global shopping spree: Is the world’s future resource map tilting East?

Cross-posted from TomDispatch. Think of it as a tale of two countries. When it comes to procuring the resources that make industrial societies run, China …

Will <em>Earth’s Last Stand</em> Sweep the 2013 Oscars?

Avatar: The Prequel

Cross-posted from TomDispatch. The anticipation may be building, but we’ll all have to wait for the 82nd Academy Awards on March 7th to find out …

The Second Decade

The world in 2020: China, the U.S., the global South, and the planet

This was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, we find …

The (Re)Making of a Petro-State

Will Iraq be a global gas pump?

This guest essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. —– Has it all come to this? The wars …

Energy Department changes tune on peak oil

It’s official — the era of cheap oil is over

This was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom’s kind permission. Every summer, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department …

Oil 2009

Cheap oil: Be careful what you wish for

This guest essay was originally published on TomDispatch and is republished here with Tom's kind permission. ----- Only yesterday, it seems, we were bemoaning the high price of oil. Under the headline "Oil's Rapid Rise Stirs Talk of $200 a Barrel This Year," the July 7 issue of the Wall Street Journal warned that prices that high would put "extreme strains on large sectors of the U.S. economy." Today, oil, at over $40 a barrel, costs less than one-third what it did in July, and some economists have predicted that it could fall as low as $25 a barrel in 2009. Prices that low -- and their equivalents at the gas pump -- will no doubt be viewed as a godsend by many hard-hit American consumers, even if they ensure severe economic hardship in oil-producing countries like Nigeria, Russia, Iran, Kuwait, and Venezuela that depend on energy exports for a large share of their national income. Here, however, is a simple but crucial reality to keep in mind: No matter how much it costs, whether it's rising or falling, oil has a profound impact on the world we inhabit -- and this will be no less true in 2009 than in 2008. The main reason? In good times and bad, oil will continue to supply the largest share of the world's energy supply. For all the talk of alternatives, petroleum will remain the number one source of energy for at least the next several decades. According to December 2008 projections from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), petroleum products will still make up 38 percent of America's total energy supply in 2015; natural gas and coal only 23 percent each. Oil's overall share is expected to decline slightly as biofuels (and other alternatives) take on a larger percentage of the total, but even in 2030 -- the furthest the DoE is currently willing to project -- it will still remain the dominant fuel. A similar pattern holds for the planet as a whole: Although biofuels and other renewable sources of energy are expected to play a growing role in the global energy equation, don't expect oil to be anything but the world's leading source of fuel for decades to come. Keep your eye on the politics of oil and you'll always know a lot about what's actually happening on this planet. Low prices, as at present, are bad for producers, and so will hurt a number of countries that the U.S. government considers hostile, including Venezuela, Iran, and even that natural-gas-and-oil giant Russia. All of them have, in recent years, used their soaring oil income to finance political endeavors considered inimical to U.S. interests. However, dwindling prices could also shake the very foundations of oil allies like Mexico, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, which could experience internal unrest as oil revenues, and so state expenditures, decline. No less important, diminished oil prices discourage investment in complex oil ventures like deep-offshore drilling, as well as investment in the development of alternatives to oil like advanced (non-food) biofuels. Perhaps most disastrously, in a cheap oil moment, investment in non-polluting, non-climate-altering alternatives like solar, wind, and tidal energy is also likely to dwindle. In the longer term, what this means is that, once a global economic recovery begins, we can expect a fresh oil price shock as future energy options prove painfully limited. Clearly, there is no escaping oil's influence. Yet it's hard to know just what forms this influence will take in the year. Nevertheless, here are three provisional observations on oil's fate -- and so ours -- in the year ahead.