Oil's not well

As the price of oil rises, our only salvation lies in looking at the options that fuelled the
internal combustion engine before Henry Ford drove away his cars

Sanjay Kapoor Delhi

"The days of easy oil are over and don't be surprised if the price of oil climbs to $200 a barrel," says Dilip Hiro, journalist-playwright and author of Blood of the Earth -The Battle for the World's Vanishing Oil Resources, among several acclaimed books. Hiro, who claims that he has been "jobless" for the last 40 years, told Hardnews during his recent visit to Delhi that the oil crisis would be staved off only when the internal combustion engine can run on hydrogen cells, gas or solar panels in addition to oil. He was in Delhi to promote his book.
Hiro's book does not pull any punches when it comes to laying bare the machinations of the global oil lobby to re-order the world. He is scathing and unsparing in his indictment of US President George W Bush and his administration's policies that saw Washington wage wars in the Gulf to control oil assets. He refers to the BBC's Newsnight programme where an Iraqi American oil consultant called Falah al Jibury has said that plans were ready to take over Iraqi oil companies before Bush entered the White House. Jibury had wor-ked with former President Ronald Reagan.
Jibury claimed that two plans were made. The first plan involved throwing out Saddam Hussein and then investing American money into the oil industry to improve output. The second was to privatise the Iraqi oil industry and sell assets to foreign companies. That was the reason, Jibury claimed, why the petroleum ministry was safe even as mobs burnt down buildings housing other ministries.
Hiro believes that the Bush administration and the formidable Isreal lobby were working in tandem. Israelis used the American lust for oil to attain certain strategic objectives. They, according to him, were cognisant of the fact that they could militarily defeat every Arab country except the Iraqis. And they got it done by feeding the gullible Americans the story that invading Iraq would help in ensuring cheap oil as well as bring democracy. Needless to say, the Iraq operation turned out to be big misadventure, spawning a high oil price regime. "They had not reckoned that Iraqis would resist any attempt of the US to take oil from their country. All the calculations of the US government had gone wrong."
The London-based author documents how oil production has come down over the years in the US. Its "donkey pumps" in Texas produce just 10 barrels a day against 2,500 barrels produced in Qatar and Kuwait. This is an outcome of the US policy to save its own oil reserves. Hiro also showcases the close nexus between the Saudi Arabian government and the Bush family that helped in creating the infamous Carlyle Group, which is seen as a major beneficiary of the Iraq war.
Hiro is of the view that oil has reshaped India's polity. "Two steep jumps in oil prices in 1973 and 1991 shook the Indian polity severely - the first culminating in Emergency by the government of Indira Gandhi in 1975 and the second depleting the country's already scarce foreign reserves to a dangerous level, compelling it to beseech the IMF for a bailout package." He argues that it was oil that triggered economic reforms which has pushed India's
annual growth rate to the impressive 8-10 per cent level. This time around, however, India is better prepared to face the rising oil prices because it has more foreign reserves than it did at the time of the last crisis. It also has the cash to buy expensive oil.
In recent years, Hiro believes, India's foreign policy has been shaped by its quest for oil. Countries like Ivory Coast, Venezuela, Ecuador and Turkmenistan, which were earlier part of the outer fringe of Delhi's diplomacy, have now become part of the mainstream. India chose to overlook Myanmar's abysmal human rights record to cosy up with the repressive junta.
The salvation for the world, according to Hiro, lies in going back to history - looking at the options that fuelled the internal combustion engine before He-nry Ford drove away his cars on oil.