Top positive review
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Superbly researched book that has a stark message for all
on 14 April 2005
In this fantastically well written and researched book, Klare draws on literally thousands of different sources to show how Western governments in general, and the US in particular, have manipulated world politics for the past half century to ensure the life blood of their power never runs dry. He describes the "security strategy" formulated by the American right during their time out of office in the 1990s, how an opportunity to wean the US off fossil fuels was deliberately overlooked when they re-took power this decade, how the idea of domestic self-reliance is a myth and how Iraq could never have been about anything else but oil.
After setting the scene, Klare then shows how Central Asia - most notably the Caspian Sea region - will almost certainly be the next flash point as the US, EU, Russia and China seek alternative supplies to the Persian Gulf, while at the same time producers in the Gulf will quite literally have us over a barrel. It has already started: Oil has reached record prices, while joint exercises with local forces and the establishment of permanent airfields in pro-Western countries has been accompanied with the propping up of decidedly non-democratic regimes and the subtle weakening of troublesome governments, in order to have them replaced by popular revolt. Anyone who has seen the news in the past few months will have seen these prophecies starting to occur in countries such as Kyrgyzstan. Worryingly, Klare foresees a very high chance of all out war: Without predicting who will side with whom, it is clear that on our current path we are destined to come to blows over the last remaining reserves within our lifetimes.
The book comes out with some startling figures. For example, whilst George Bush has pledged $1.2 billion for hydrogen fuel research between 2002 and 2007 - a large sounding number if taken by itself - or the world argues over who will host a $5bn demonstration Fusion reactor that could lead the way to millennia of clean energy, what is not often shown is the cost of the status quo. Klare quotes the R&D and equipment cost alone required to extract more of the difficult-to-find reserves and sustain world demand will be over $3 trillion between now and 2030. This is before we consider the cost of pollution, indirect environmental effects and disasters, propping up of "friendly" oil states worldwide with arms and training (billions of dollars each, even to the small guys) and of course the wars that go along with increasingly scare reserves (Iraq alone having cost hundreds of billions of dollars already). The author ponders where this kind of money is going to come from - but then again this was written before Paul Wolfowitz took up residence at the World Bank.
If any aspect of this book is below first class, it is the section on strategies to turn the world away from the oil economy. There is nothing wrong with the tone of the material, but it feels a bit lightweight after everything else here. Perhaps defining the way out of this mess is neither the author's speciality nor strictly the point of the book, which is understandable given the depth of the cover of other matters. If what you read makes you anxious for more, the subjects are better dealt with in "Beyond Oil" by Kenneth S. Deffeyes, "Tomorrow's Energy" by Peter Hoffman and other books of that ilk, in addition to websites such as [...] and [...]
Nevertheless, this is a superb book; well researched, easy to follow for political novices, delivers the facts without being sensationalist and outlines the consequences of inaction. If I could, I'd make everyone read this to see how badly we have been and are being conned by our leaders. This should be on the bookshelf of anyone who has an interest in world politics or the environment - together with the sources mentioned above, it is clear that not only is there an alternative to the future we are making for ourselves, but the means to do it are all but ready now and by comparison, the costs are not as high as They would like you to believe.
Food for thought when oil hits $100 per barrel.