If you think that the current governmental and corporate interest in ethanol has something to do with global warming, think again. It is dawning on the U.S. government that (1) most of the remaining supplies of oil are in unfriendly hands, and (2) that there isn’t enough oil remaining to feed a constantly growing global demand.

With oil production plateauing, governments can turn to three main strategies to maintain fuel supplies: (1) consume what’s left of the planet by growing huge amounts of biofuels; (2) fry what’s left of the atmosphere by converting coal to oil or exploiting dirty, expensive tars and oil sands; or (3) conquer the planet to forcably take whatever oil is left.

Michael T. Klare brings this problem right to the door of the U.S. military in his new article, “The Pentagon v. Peak Oil: How Wars of the Future May Be Fought Just to Run the Machines That Fight Them.”

According to Klare:

That global oil output will eventually reach a peak and then decline is no longer a matter of debate; all major energy organizations have now embraced this view … If there is a consensus emerging, it is that peak-oil output will occur somewhere around 2015. Whatever the timing of this momentous event, it is apparent that the world faces a profound shift in the global availability of energy, as we move from a situation of relative abundance to one of relative scarcity. It should be noted, moreover, that this shift will apply, above all, to the form of energy most in demand by the Pentagon: the petroleum liquids used to power planes, ships, and armored vehicles.

How will the military respond to this unexpected challenge? One approach, favored by some within the DoD, is to go “green” — that is, to emphasize the accelerated development and acquisition of fuel-efficient weapons …

But there is also a more sinister approach that may be far more highly favored by senior officials: To ensure itself a “reliable” source of oil in perpetuity, the Pentagon will increase its efforts to maintain control over foreign sources of supply, notably oil fields and refineries in the Persian Gulf region, especially in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This would help explain the recent talk of U.S. plans to retain “enduring” bases in Iraq, along with its already impressive and elaborate basing infrastructure in these other countries.

As Klare concludes,

It would be both sad and ironic, if the military now began fighting wars mainly so that it could be guaranteed the fuel to run its own planes, ships, and tanks — consuming hundreds of billions of dollars a year that could instead be spent on the development of petroleum alternatives. “

Governments, whether democratic such as the U.S. or tyrannical such as China, now depend on a steady flow of liquid fuels for the legitimacy that keeps their leaders in power. As the global oil markets tighten, the last item on their agenda for “energy independence” will be the problem of global warming. The only way out of this mess is to move toward a fuel-free society.