Re: (OPE-L) Re: s/v & c/v: macroeconomic categories only?

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Mon Feb 02 2004 - 20:14:52 EST

>     Now, a footnote on differential oil rents:  given the intervention of
>'landed property,' a portion of surplus value in the global oil industry is
>regularly appropriated by the rentier (state and private).  This portion,
>therefore, is already excluded from the formation of uniform rate of profit
>and thus, theoretically as well as empirically, can be exclusively dealt
>with under the rubric of rent.  Again, refering to our limited discussions
>so far, if the intention is to engage in a productive exchange on the nature
>of oil rents and the meaning of globalization, one needs to sharpen one's
>focus on the relevant issues that bear on the subject directly.  I shall be
>in touch to comment on your recent posting.  I have to run now.

I of course agree with Cyrus' argument about how oil rent is price
determined in the global market rather than price-determining.

I look forward to Cyrus' further comments.

In the meantime, let me change topics.

The production of semiconductors can be carried out in many places.
If Saddam's Iraq had had  control over a sizable share of trained
semiconductor engineers, one imagines that the US would not have
invaded Iraq but rather paid for the training of engineers in the US
or elsewhere. Semiconductors would eventually be produced as cheaply
and as reliably with or without access to Iraq's pool of
semiconductor talent. But this is not true with oil. If US capital
does not have access to Iraqi (and Gulf) oil in the extraction,
refining, and/or  transportation phase, it may not be able to produce
and sell oil cheaply and reliably, i.e. to market oil most
efficiently; its oil services companies may lose access to the
deepest national markets, rooted in their respective state's control
over inherently scarce means of production. The production of low
cost and high quality oil depends on an inherently scarce means of
production (this is the simple answer to why oil is a special
commodity, though I don't think Simon Bromley says as much). The
freedom that the US capital demands is the freedom to command
directly or indirectly superior sub soils which are inherently scarce
means of production. For this reason, I can't understand Ellen
Meiskin Wood's insistence on the decreasing importance of territorial
control, backed by extra economic force (in fact her argument has to
seem tendentious in light of present events). Of course the US is
interested in territorial control of entire geological formations,
and of course the US is willing to use (even if outsourced) violence
to secure it. The added advantage to such control is the power that
the US gains over disbursement of rent.

U.S., China Are on Collision Course Over Oil

LA Times | 2 feb
Gal Luft

Sixty-seven years ago, oil-starved Japan embarked on an aggressive expansionary
policy designed to secure its growing energy needs, which eventually led the
nation into a world war. Today, another Asian power thirsts for oil: China.
While the U.S. is absorbed in fighting the war on terror, the seeds of what
could be the next world war are quietly germinating. With 1.3 billion people
and an economy growing at a phenomenal 8% to 10% a year, China, already a net
oil importer, is growing increasingly dependent on imported oil. Last year, its
auto sales grew 70% and its oil imports were up 30% from the previous year,
making it the world's No. 2 petroleum user after the U.S. By 2030, China is
expected to have more cars than the U.S. and import as much oil as the U.S.
does today.

Dependence on oil means dependence on the Middle East, home to 70% of the
world's proven reserves. With 60% of its oil imports coming from the Middle
East, China can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines of the tumultuous
region. Its way of forming a footprint in the Middle East has been through
providing technology and components for weapons of mass destruction and their
delivery systems to unsavory regimes in places such as Iran, Iraq and Syria. A
report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a group
created by Congress to monitor U.S.-China relations, warned in 2002 that "this
arms trafficking to these regimes presents an increasing threat to U.S.
security interests in the Middle East." The report concludes: "A key driver in
China's relations with terrorist-sponsoring governments is its dependence on
foreign oil to fuel its economic development. This dependency is expected to
increase over the coming decade."

Optimists claim that the world oil market will be able to accommodate China and
that, instead of conflict, China's thirst could create mutual desire for
stability in the Middle East and thus actually bring Beijing closer to the U.S.

History shows the opposite: Superpowers find it difficult to coexist while
competing over scarce resources. The main bone of contention probably will
revolve around China's relations with Saudi Arabia, home to a quarter of the
world's oil. The Chinese have already supplied the Saudis with intermediate-
range ballistic missiles, and they played a major role 20 years ago in a Saudi-
financed Pakistani nuclear effort that may one day leave a nuclear weapon in
the hands of a Taliban-type regime in Riyadh or Islamabad.

Since 9/11, a deep tension in U.S.-Saudi relations has provided the Chinese
with an opportunity to win the heart of the House of Saud. The Saudis hear the
voices in the U.S. denouncing Saudi Arabia as a "kernel of evil" and proposing
that the U.S. seize and occupy the kingdom's oil fields. The Saudis especially
fear that if their citizens again perpetrate a terror attack in the U.S., there
would be no alternative for the U.S. but to terminate its long-standing
commitment to the monarchy - and perhaps even use military force against it.

The Saudis realize that to forestall such a scenario they can no longer rely
solely on the U.S. to defend the regime and must diversify their security
portfolio. In their search for a new patron, they might find China the most
fitting and willing candidate.

The risk of Beijing's emerging as a competitor for influence in the Middle East
and a Saudi shift of allegiance are things Washington should consider as it
defines its objectives and priorities in the 21st century. Without a
comprehensive strategy designed to prevent China from becoming an oil consumer
on a par with the U.S., a superpower collision is in the cards. The good news
is that we are still in a position to halt China's slide into total dependency.

Unlike the U.S., China's energy infrastructure is largely underdeveloped and
primarily coal-based. It has not yet invested in a multibillion-dollar oil
infrastructure. China is therefore in a better position than the U.S. to bypass
oil in favor of next-generation fuels.

The U.S. should embark on a frank dialogue with China, conveying to the Chinese
the mutual benefits of circumventing oil and offering any assistance required
to curb China's growing appetite for it. A shift from oil into other sources of
transportation energy - such as bio-fuels or coal-based fuels, hydrogen and
natural gas - could prevent future conflict and foster unprecedented Sino-
American cooperation with significant economic benefits for both countries.

The Chinese would probably leapfrog oil if they could. Dependency of any kind
is foreign to their culture. But without substantial American technological
support, China is likely to follow the path of least resistance and become a
full-fledged oil economy. Failure to address the issue with the utmost care
would undercut all of today's costly efforts by the U.S. to reform and
stabilize the Middle East.

This explosive, complex region cannot accommodate two major powers competing
not only over a barrel but also over the hearts, minds and allegiance of its

Gal Luft is executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global
Security and publisher of the online publication Energy Security

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