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16 February, 2018

US imperialism: the wounded beast strikes out for oil in Venezuela

Oil is indispensable for US capitalism. Black gold is their vital sap. All of their lavish and unsustainable American Way of Life is based on the consumption of petroleum. It is the country of the world that consumes the most hydrocarbons daily: 20 million barrels per day. The country that follows, the People’s Republic of China, barely reaches half of this figure: 10 million barrels per day. Between their immeasurable industrial base, the monumental quantity of individually owned automobiles and their means of mass transport that mobilize their population and the gigantic military apparatus at their disposition (plus a strategic reserve, calculated at 700 million barrels), their thirst for this element is insatiable.

The petroleum business is in fact one of the biggest in the world: the second after the military industry (35 thousand dollars per second spent on arms). The US oil companies, all private, are among the largest in the planet: mega-monsters of global scope, such as Exxon-Mobil (the fourth company at the world level), Chevron-Texaco, Conoco-Phillips, Amoco, Bush Energy, Oxy, and some other lesser ones (Koch Industries, Apache Corporation, PBF Energy, Alon USA), all have multimillion-dollar sales, and to a large extent they determine the foreign policy of Washington.

One might say that the history of the United States is the history of oil: of that in their subsoil (60% of their daily consumption) and of that in the subsoil of other countries, that the ruling class of the nation still appears to consider their own, with the slight difference–an “awkward detail”–that it is not within their borders. Why does the geopolitics of the United States put so much emphasis on the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, or more recently–from the Bolivarian revolution onwards–on Venezuela? Because that is where the greatest reserves of black gold in the world are. And because, although they are not in their own subsoil, they consider them their own.

There are two reasons for which the imperial policy of Washington reeks of petroleum (and of arms: their military-industrial complex is the first business of their economy). On the one hand, because they need to continue maintaining their provision of black gold as the indispensable oxygen of their capitalist economic system (their industrial base, the whole huge field of petrochemicals, the world of the automobile, of transport in general–air, land, sea–, their military apparatus, the space race... all depend, directly or indirectly, on oil). Ensuring their access to oil (40% of their consumption comes from the exterior), it maintains their living standard, and, fundamentally, it ensures that the mega oil companies that manage this fabulous business cannot fail.

A significant fact: the present Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was formerly the Executive Director of the mega oil company Exxon-Mobil; likewise, the ex-Secretary, Condoleezza Rice, used to be a distinguished member of the directorate of the Chevron oil company. What does this mean? That the high-level policy of the White House does not greatly distinguish between a decision-making public official and the high-ranking staff of their global corporations; in reality, they are practically the same. Who is running whom?

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