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Oils ain't just oils, they're to die for

It is its citizens' need for oil that drives the US's crusade in the Middle East, Margo Kingston writes.

Most Europeans have never been in doubt that Iraq is an oil war. As the latest ludicrous excuse for the war lies in ruins - that it is a selfless American crusade to civilise the Middle East - perhaps we can finally start to think about the real issues and what our "leaders" are doing about them in our name.

The mainstream media has hardly touched the looming oil supply crisis, but if you look hard enough, the mastermind of the war, Bush's Vice-President Dick Cheney did in 1999, as chairman of giant oil services company Halliburton, now ensconced in Iraq. Cheney warned that by 2010 the world would need another 50 million barrels a day, way above our known reserves.

"The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world's oil, is still where the prize ultimately lies," he said.

"Even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow."

The US props up the corrupt Saudi regime in return for co-operation on oil - despite its funding of extremist Islamic groups abroad - but to insure against an uprising by the unfortunate Saudi people, Bush replaced America's former proxy Saddam Hussein in his palaces and his torture chambers under cover of September 11.

Cheney's war plan to put Iraq's oil in the hands of American companies was counterproductive - the mind bogglingly incompetent Anglo imperial war now threatens to drive US business out of the Middle East altogether.

At a conference on oil depletion in Berlin this year, Colin Campbell, a world-renowned geologist and founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, said: "There are vested interests on all sides hoping somehow to evade the grip of oil depletion, or at least to put it off until after the next election or until they can develop some strategy for their personal or corporate survival. As the moment of truth approaches, so does the heat, the deceptions, the half truth and the flat lies."

The biggest of the flat lies so far is the Iraq war, where Bush was prepared to increase recruitment to terrorist organisations and increase the risk of terrorist attacks to secure oil.

Bush is so desperate for oil and so unwilling to ask his people to reduce their gluttonous oil use that he tried to allow drilling for oil in one of America's great natural wildernesses, Alaska.

The Los Angeles Times revealed last week that the US oil industry employed influential former government officials to help mount a successful campaign after 1998 in partnership with the president of Kazakhstan to "convince the world that his oil-rich, authoritarian regime was actually a budding democracy".

The campaign "seized on America's need for oil to win US support for a government with a penchant for shuttering newspapers and manipulating elections", and included commissioning positive stories by corrupted journalists in the mainstream media.

What to do? Enslave the people of oil-producing nations to keep living how we live and abandon our values for the purpose? Have a world war? That's where we're heading. How about spending our money not on oil wars, which make the world a much more dangerous place for ordinary people, but on a war against the need for so much oil?

How about spending billions on alternative energy? How about telling citizens the truth about the realities we face, and bring us in on the conversation of how we might be prepared to change our lifestyle and the way our cities are organised to meet the threat through peace, not war?

You know how much the Australian Government spent in the budget to promote renewal energy research? Nothing, effectively. More incentives for oil exploration, of course, but it hasn't even spent the small amounts it had already allocated for greenhouse abatement to stop our world warming up - partly due to our over-reliance on oil. And shouldn't we be spending billions on city and country trains, not more road tunnels?

The world can descend into hell to fight over oil, or we can start now in reducing our reliance on it. We can live in peace with less oil, or we can die in war to try to maintain our lifestyle for a little while longer at the expense of our core values.

"Those in power want the bland illusion of 'business as usual' so that they may continue to extract support from their traditional constituencies, rather than face the reality of natural depletion imposed by nature," Colin Campbell said.

"In this they underestimate the resolve of the deprived electors, who would much prefer to be told the truth. 'Put your trust in the people,' Winston Churchill said when facing an earlier crisis."

Reader quote of the week

I do not understand why this situation is not the main current public debate. I am, perhaps, in my young years, poisoned by naivety into believing that if a truly devastating threat lurked on the horizon, politicians would cease playing politics and work together to find a solution. That appears not to have happened.

- David Mieluk in Terrigal on the oil crisis.

Margo Kingston is the political commentator for The Sydney Morning Herald online. Her readers' forum is at smh.com.au/webdiary. For more on the oil crisis, see http://www.peakoil.net/

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