The history of exploration and use of fossil fuels is centuries-old. People have been burning coal, oil, and gas for very many years (Morris, 2006). Coal, oil, and gas have been the world’s most dominant sources of energy since 1800 A.D. Before the discovery of fossil fuels, people relied on human-generated energy and sometimes animal sources. Fossil fuels formed over millions of years are a result of the decomposition process of remains of plants and animals. The decomposition is caused by the immense heat and pressure that the remains have been subjected to. The rate of use of these resources continues to increase in the process of modernization and industrialization. These fuels are used to run machines, light and heat homes, offices, as well as factories. All the three forms of fossil fuels, oil, coal and gas, have been used to generate other energy sources such as electricity. The use of fossil fuels in America is extensive. For example, over 75 million barrels of oil are used on a daily basis in the country (Morris, 2006).
Today human life heavily depends on the energy generated by fossil fuels. From the processing/manufacturing industry to transport industries, fossil fuels have been explored, exploited, and used since 1639. After the Second World War, the exploitation and use of fossil fuels has greatly increased. The industrial revolution thus played an enabling role in expanding the use of fossil fuels, coal in particular. For example, in 1800, the Industrial Revolution that spread to the United States led to the use of fossil fuels to operate steam-powered railroads and the whole transport industry.
Presently, fossil fuels are the most available form of generating power both for private and commercial use. Petroleum fuels for example are used to run cars. Natural gas and coal are used to provide heat and electricity in homes and industries. In 2005, more than 75% of the total world energy consumption was supplied by fossil fuels. Of the three, petroleum was the leading one providing over 43.4% of the global energy consumption, natural gas catered for 15.6%, while coal catered for 8.3%. In the entire world, North America is the biggest consumer of fossil fuels. It uses approximately 25% of all fossil fuels. In the United States, coal remains the energy of choice for many applications. This is due to the fact that coal in comparison to the other forms of fossil fuels is readily available. The cost of its production is also relatively low when compared to the other forms of fossil fuels. Almost 91% of coal that is produced is used in the generation of electricity in the United States.
The exploration, exploitation, and use of fossil fuels over the years have risen to the level that is currently causing sustainability concerns. Of critical concern is the fact that the resources have been used unsustainably, and the world is running out of fossil fuels that have extensively been relied on for private use and commercial purposes since the time of the Industrial Revolution. As a result, more and more countries are applying a great number of mechanisms and structures to ensure that the resources are not depleted and the resources that are available now are used sustainably. This is done with the focus on the energy needs of the world in the coming years. The United States has not been left behind either. The country has been struggling to develop and implement energy regulation and use policies that consider the bitter truth that the world is running out of fossil fuels.
The Peak Oil Theory
The term “peak oil” is used by experts and scholars in the field of energy to describe the point at which the earth’s supply of oil does not meet the energy demands, especially considering that oil is not a renewable energy source. This implies that as much and much oil is exploited and used to meet the energy needs for private and commercial purposes, its exhaustion will be the eventual reality. The theory is associated with M. King Herbert who predicted the shortage of oil in the United states in the 1970s. Geologists have continued to warn of the imminent collapse of oil supply not only in the U.S. but also globally, with the possibility that this peak would bring technology and commerce down or generally slow down the progression of the two indicators of modernity. According to King Hubbert, the global oil peak would become an inevitable reality by the early 2000s.
According to some proponents of the peak oil theory, the average rate of production in an individual oil well grows progressively until the rate of production reaches a peak before it begins to decline. The decline is sometimes very rapid leading to an immediate depletion of oil reserves not only in America but all over the world. The eventual decline of oil production in the U.S. and the whole world has great implications for the performance of the industrial and commercial sectors. The supply shortfalls of oil have an impact that leads to price inflation of the valuable resource. This in turn causes shortage of energy, adoption of extreme oil conservation measures, as the world is searching for alternative sources of energy. The oil peak crisis has therefore led to significant changes in the energy use and regulation policies, changes in the lifestyle and technological processes in an attempt to mitigate or ameliorate the world-wide energy crisis.
The peak oil theory that alludes to the earth reaching its optimal capacity to produce more oil is justified by the declining oil production levels in countries outside OPEC (Oil Producing and Exporting Countries) and the Former Soviet Union (FSU). An examination of countries outside the Former Soviet Union and OPEC reveals a pattern of decline in the total oil production since the year 2000. Most of the countries have already reached their production peaks or are about to reach this level. The only countries that have the potential to expand their oil production are Angola and Brazil. Stagnation of the oil production in most countries has been the consequence of peaking oil production in the North Sea that occurred in 2000. The global onshore oil production reached its plateau stage much earlier in the 1990s and has been declining since then. This decline has led to further shortage of oil, since the offshore only accounts for 50% of the total oil production.
The oil supply gap is expected to widen even further in the coming years, as most oil reserves within OPEC and countries of the Former Soviet Union reach their production peaks. Further development of production deficit was caused by the production peak of Cantarell in Mexico, which is the world’s biggest offshore field among the top four oil producing fields globally. It started to register a decline in 2005. The increasing decline in oil production in the major reserves means that it would be more and more complicated to sustain the overall oil production levels. The peak oil theory is thus based on the general proven fact that most of the oil reserves across the globe have entered the plateau phase or are just about to reach this level, leading to shortage in supply against the rising demand for oil across the world and especially in developing/industrializing countries.
The peak oil theory is based on the analysis of the production trends of giant oilfields. Most of the world’s giant oil fields were discovered almost 50 years ago. According to geological records, since the 1960s, annual oil discoveries have been decreasing. The peak oil crisis is a global menace in the sense that most Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) and countries in the FSU (Former Soviet Union) are not increasing their production levels, since they have reached their limits. For example, Russia, which is the biggest part of the Former Soviet Union, is starting to experience a decline in oil production limits. There are also several countries outside OPEC and the FSU that are already in their post-peak stages of oil production. The United States and Mexico, which make up the North Sea production, have already reached their peak and are experiencing a decline in their annual oil production levels.
The decline in oil production in the United States and other countries within the North Sea region points to the crisis that the world economy is embedded in due to the increasing energy demands against the declining supply. Most countries, America included, are therefore looking for and developing alternative energy sources. Besides, there is the dawning reality and need to review the energy regulation policies. However, the greatest impact of the peak oil phenomenon is the fact that the United States having reached its peak level is struggling to gain access to oil reserves in other countries that have not been exploited so that they can meet the supply-demand gap that its industrial economy is experiencing. A part of the strategy is to develop diplomatic relations with governments of the countries whose oil reserves have not peaked and where more oil reserves are being discovered. This has had an impact on the development, review, and implementation of the U.S. foreign policy, energy policy, and the security policy (Tucker, Roberts & Zinni, 2010).
In the wake of peak oil, in most reserves in the U.S, it has been evident that much of the oil reserves that still have the potential to increase and sustain productivity are in the Middle East and Africa. Coincidentally, most of the countries with potential oil surplus are predominantly Muslim (Tucker, Roberts & Zinni, 2010). The assumption that Islamic Fundamentalism is the force behind international terrorism has thus been perceived by most scholars of international relations and political science as war that is not based on eradication of international terrorism. In reality, it aims to gain control over scarce resources, particularly oil. The global conflict characterized by war on international terror that the U.S has evidently gained control over is thus a war over control of the sources of fossil fuels across the globe. Tucker, Roberts and Zinni (2010) cited that the U.S. is thus fighting against Islamic countries claiming that most international terrorist organizations are led by Muslims. In fact, the U.S. security policy, energy and international relations policy are all targeted at one goal, which is gaining access to alternative, cheap, and sustainable sources of energy because of the peak oil crisis, as most of the fossil fuel reserves in the United States register a decline (Tucker, Roberts & Zinni, 2010).
Peak Oil, 9/11, and the War on Terror
The war on terror has been caused and greatly influenced by the unfolding realities in oil reserves that continue to reach their peak. There have been debates over the changes in the U.S. foreign, energy, and security policies (Tucker, Roberts & Zinni, 2010). Many of these changes have been made in line with the rising focus on the global war on terror which the United States is ably leading. Perhaps this explains the reason behind the involvement of the U.S and the U.K. in the Middle East after 9/11. This region is predominantly Muslim and is known to be the hub of promising oil reserves that have not reached their peak or where more reserves are being explored (Tucker, Roberts & Zinni, 2010). Palestinians and Muslim inhabitants of the Middle East have taken advantage of the oil reserves they have in the war between Israelis and Palestinians. This explains partly how the oil crisis in the United States and the availability of this valuable commodity in the Middle East and Afghanistan led to conflicts.
The U.S. was seen to be apparently providing its support for the Israeli side during the war against Palestinians. This made the U.S and Israel the target of Al-Qaeda attacks that bombed the U.S. on 9/11. Tucker, Roberts and Zinni (2010) cited that there have been numerous discussions that link the oil factor with the war on terror. The U.S., especially during the Bush administration, was seen to fight Muslims on the pretext that they are a threat to the country’s security, especially following the 9/11 attacks that had been planned and executed by Al-Qaeda (Tucker & Zinni, 2010). The decision by the Bush administration to deploy over 130000 of U.S. troops in Iraq, Iran, and other predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East was considered by U.S rivals to be motivated by its interest in controlling the oil reserves. This falls within the energy policy framework of the United States that sought alternative sources of fossil fuels after the U.S. oil reserves dried out. Rosati & Scott (2011) cited that this would explain the reason behind U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestrina, and some other Middle East countries. The U.S. security policy that targets at protection of the U.S. against international terrorist attacks could be just an excuse, while the actual goal is U.S. interests in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa where almost 75% of the world’s oil and natural gas are found (Tucker, Roberts & Zinni, 2010).
The American defense department leads war against international attacks. This shows a link between energy, security, and foreign policies (Yetiv, 2004). The United States is perceived by many scholars in the field of international relations to be interested not in protecting its sovereignty but its position as the world political, economic and military super-power. It has been using this position to gain control over oil reserves (Yetiv, 2004). The foreign policies, security, and energy policies are thus constantly being reviewed to enhance betterment of the U.S. position in realizing this objective. This explains the relations between the U.S. government and Muslim Federalists in the Middle East and President Obama’s growing interest in Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC). The target is to cut the foreign exchange costs related to the import of oil, which the U.S. aggressively needs for the establishment of its commercial and industrial sectors (Pill, 2003).
The relationship between the U.S. and the Middle East remains sour. This is due to the fact that the Middle East is very volatile and less amenable in terms of U.S. influence. This is because of the identification of the United States with Israel, which is a rival nation of the Middle East (Rosati & Scott, 2011). U.S oil companies are thus held in a fix, and they have to first address the resentment of the Middle East against the American government. Poor relationships between the Middle East and the U. S. are largely caused by the fact that it is predominantly controlled by Islamic fundamentalism. Although U.S foreign, energy and security policies have attempted to address this issue, little progress has been made. U.S. foreign and security policies have been counterproductive with respect to their ability to influence the key oil countries in the direction of U.S. policies. Perhaps the move by the U.S. foreign affairs secretary to build networks with Saudi Arabia is calculated and is aimed at finding alternative energy sources, since Saudi Arabia is the world’s foremost oil producer (Pill, 2003).
The internal U.S. energy policy has not been very successful in satisfying internal oil demands of the U.S. (Yetiv, 2004). This is partly because of the challenge of being able to influence US consumers to comply with the tax-induced high oil prices. The energy policy considers this move to be the best step towards the implementation of incentive-based energy savings and achievement of efficiency. It is true that the United States is the largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world. The U.S foreign policy is therefore the consequence of its domestic energy policy, especially with regard to the country’s domestic oil policies. The war against international terror was launched after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Pill (2003) cited that the international war on global terror that is dictated by the peak oil reality in the United States and other Western countries has thus been caused and guided by the energy crisis in the United States and the issues relating to security. Islamic federalism is thus fought not on the basis of religious fundamentalism, but because of peaking oil reserves.
The global war on terror is thus led and directed by energy policies more than national security and foreign relation policies. The ultimate goal of the war on terrorists mostly from Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and other Middle East countries is the need to make the Islamic Fundamentalism the orchestrator of global terror attacks. The U.S. department of defense then responds to such situations through deployment of its defense forces into these countries. These is very evident in cases that led to the incarceration of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and even the death of the leader of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (Pill, 2003). Religious radicalism that is being witnessed is thus just a pretext for conflicts whose root cause is the struggle by the U.S to gain control over such resources as oil or gas in these countries. U.S. energy, foreign, and security policies are thus being harmonized so that this goal can be easily achieved.
The war against international terrorism is being keenly looked at by students of international relations and globalization. According to most scholars, the war on international terror has taken a twist and is not just based on religious radicalism but rather on access to and control over valuable resources such as oil and other forms of fossil fuels in the wake of the peak oil, as espoused in the peak oil theory. The United States is thus affecting its foreign, security, and energy policies not on the basis of some real needs of the country, but out of the determined resolve to develop diplomatic political relationships with Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC). Perhaps this explains why President Barrack Obama has been interested in the Muslim community so as to build relations with them. A long-term goal is to acquire access to the oil reserves in the countries of the Middle East in order to sustain America’s energy needs.
Alternative Energy as US Alternative Strategy
According to some forecasts of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the residential energy use in the United States is bound to increase by approximately 25% by 2025 (Kowalski, 2011). As oil reserves continue to reach their peak and decline in the annual oil output, strategies and alternatives have to be sought. Although the United States has appeared to be reaching out to some countries in the Middle East through its foreign policy strategies, these efforts are apparently not about to yield any better results. This is because of the perception of Muslim Federalists that the United States is not genuinely interested in protecting its sovereignty and securing its borders. U.S. security, foreign, and policies are perceived to disguise the real goal of the U.S., which is to gain access to countries that are rich in oil. In fact, the U.S government is perceived to be promoting international wars and conflicts so as to take advantage of and gain control over countries rich in oil. Some examples that have been mentioned are the penetration of U.S. troops into Iran, Iraq, and Palestine. Such a scenario point to the fact that it is high time alternative strategies were pursued.
In the wake of the declining oil supply, increasing demand for the commodity in commercial and domestic spheres, war on international terrors, and national security, the only alternative that the United States has is to be self-reliant. Self-reliance and sustainability in terms of access to energy that is adequate enough to drive the American economy must thus be a priority for the U.S. The key to winning this war is not anywhere else apart from finding renewable sources of energy. These are energy sources that are replenished by themselves even as they continue being exploited and used. These include solar, water, geothermal, wind, biomass, and other renewable sources of energy. The areas in the U.S that have good wind resources have the potential to supply approximately 20% of the U.S electricity consumption needs. Geothermal and hydroelectric sources of energy can also greatly contribute to the enhanced energy output in the United States (Kowalski, 2011). In order for the U.S. to appear genuinely committed to fighting against international terrorism, enhancing its national security, the solution is not in reviewed foreign and security policies but in the development of alternative energy policies and encouraging a supportive public policy on renewable energy.
The United States needs to invest in the development and production of alternative sources of energy. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) thus needs to explore options for developing nuclear, geothermal, and hydropower sources. Instead of fighting against nations that are developing their alternative energy sources, the United States ought to raise public awareness on the benefits of renewable energy sources for commercial and domestic purposes (Kowalski, 2011). Thus, there should be continuous investment in the production of renewable sources of energy that translates into the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable sources. Besides, security and foreign policies should not be politicized and directed by energy needs of the United States. This has been the reason why the sincerity of the Department of Defense in its war against international terror especially after 9/11 has been doubted. Thus the success, effectiveness, and international approval of the war on terror can only be achieved through finding some lasting and sustainable sources of energy by the United States.
The United States’ energy, security, and foreign policies have been greatly influenced by the peak oil crisis that is faced by most of the countries across the globe. As the U.S. experiences shortage in oil, it is increasingly spreading its tenets to other countries through its foreign policy to gain access to cheaper and reliable sources of oil. Therefore, the war on international terror that initially appeared to be based on religious radicalism targeting at Muslim fundamentalists has since taken a shift and appears to be directed by the peak oil realities that are unfolding not only in the United States but also in numerous countries across the globe. The solution to this issue is thus to be found in the development of alternative renewable energy sources. U.S. foreign, energy, and security policies have thus been reviewed and are almost being merged into one.