We have all seen glaring headlines, images and videos of the uprisings, rebellions and protests sweeping the Middle East. Anyone living in any part of the globe cannot but react to the political turmoil. Why, did you ask? Because the oil zone of the world might be witnessing a politicalrevolution but the outcome is a permanent transformation of the world’s ‘Oil Order’.
The Middle East has been the oil zone of the world since World War II. Yes, cheap coal fuelled the ‘original’ industrial revolution: powering railroads, steamships and factories. But, it was cheap oil that brought about the ‘real’ industrial revolution: promoting automobile and aviation industry, revolutionising agriculture and being the actual catalyst for economic globalisation.
THE END OF THE ‘OLD OIL ORDER’: THE POLITICS OF IT ALL
According to Michael Klare, professor of peace and world security at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, US, what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East is the collapse of the “Old Oil Order.” To put it simply, Western governments have long supported “stable” authoritarian regimes throughout the Middle East so that oil production, that kept the world economy robust, never came to a halt. And with the region facing unprecedented political turmoil, the western powers – and the developing world – are in a tight spot. Yes, we are all in a mess. Klare puts it rather bluntly: “With the demise of the old oil order, we will see the end of cheap petroleum forever.” Now, let us take a look at the Indian scenario in light of the recent budget. We all know diesel is cheaper than petrol. And for long now, environmental advocates and researches have been talking about the misuse of the diesel subsidy. The
yawning gap between petrol and diesel has continued to incite a deadly trend of ‘diesalisation of cars’ and a subsequent shift towards bigger cars. Cheaper diesel fuel is encouraging bigger cars, bigger engines, more driving and fuel guzzling. And this brings us to the never-ending debate on fossil fuels Vs renewables. Agreed the Indian government is using tax measures for electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles but take a look around you and try and spot a hybrid or electric car on the road. The numbers are dismal and disappointing, right?
It’s high time the government addresses the mobility needs of the poor and the majority in our cities. Yes, the Union Budget announced the ‘Rs 3,000 crore energy fund’ but is it really going to address energy issues or will we have to keep facing the increasing public health risks from toxic emissions?
■ According to a 2009 British Petroleum (BP) report, suppliers in the Middle East and North Africa jointly supplied 36 per cent of the world’s total oil supply.
■ Oil producers from the Middle East will remain critical players in the years to come — they possess an estimated two-thirds of the remaining untapped petroleum reserves of the world.
■ According to recent projections by the US Department of Energy, the Middle East and North Africa will jointly provide approximately 43 per cent of the world’s crude petroleum
supply by 2035.