"No Blood for Oil" Examined
Any time we debate the Iraq war, and the U.S. presence in the Middle East in general, the topic of soldiers "dying for oil" always comes up. The argument is that oil is not a resource worth fighting wars over, that innocent Arabs and young, promising American soldiers should not have their blood spilled for oil.
First of all, I want to be very clear about this: There is no resource, conflict, or issue that justifies starting a war. Initiating violence to gain control of a resource, whether it be actual or intellectual, is never appropriate. However, fighting for purposes of defense, reasonable pre-emption, or to enforce international law is a different matter. I believe we are pursuing all three of those objectives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather than defend that idea in this column, I would refer you to articles by much better writers than myself: Senator Joe Lieberman, Bob Kerrey, and Orson Scott Card.
But I want to look at the "no blood for oil" argument here. I should say straight out that this appeal has never really resonated with me. It strikes me as an emotional argument rather than a rational one, and while I appreciate the value of taking an emotional, intuitive, or moral stance on a logical issue (I do, after all, believe God became man, died for the sins of all humankind, and rose from the dead), I refuse to discount reason entirely. It's a fallacy that numbers don't lie, but they are often very illustrative.
So let’s look at some numbers from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Top World Oil Net Exporters, 2006
Country / Net Oil Exports (million barrels per day)
1) Saudi Arabia: 8.7
2) Russia: 6.6
3) Norway: 2.5
4) Iran: 2.5
5) United Arab Emirates: 2.5
6) Venezuela: 2.2
7) Kuwait: 2.1
8) Nigeria: 2.1
9) Algeria: 1.8
10) Mexico: 1.7
11) Libya: 1.5
12) Iraq: 1.4
13) Angola: 1.4
14) Kazakhstan: 1.1
15) Canada: 1.1
Table includes all countries with net exports exceeding 1 million barrels per day in 2006.
So we can see that Iraq is the 12th-largest oil exporter in the world. Pretty impressive. There's a lot of money to be made with that oil on the international market. But let's look at total production:
Top World Oil Producers, 2006
Country / Total Oil Production (million barrels per day)
1) Saudi Arabia: 10.7
2) Russia: 9.7
3) United States: 8.4
4) Iran: 4.1
5) China: 3.8
6) Mexico: 3.7
7) Canada: 3.3
8) United Arab Emirates: 2.9
9) Venezuela: 2.8
10) Norway: 2.8
11) Kuwait: 2.7
12) Nigeria: 2.4
13) Brazil: 2.2
14) Algeria: 2.1
15) Iraq: 2.0
Table includes all countries total oil production exceeding 2 million barrels per day in 2006.
Total Oil Production includes crude oil, natural gas liquids, condensate, refinery gain, and other liquids.
When it comes to total production, Iraq falls a bit, down to 15th place. So they're holding onto 30% of their oil for domestic usage. Compare that to the United States, which exports virtually no oil whatsoever. Greedy Republican bastards!
For the last table, I regret that I only have 2005 data. I am going to assume that 2005 and 2006 will be similar enough for purposes of comparison. Obviously, I'm nothing resembling a scientist or statistician; I have two degrees in Theatre for Pete's sake.
This time, we'll look at U.S. imports only.
Top U.S. Oil Imports by Country of Origin , 2005
Country / Total Oil Imports (million barrels per day)
1) Canada: 2.181
2) Mexico: 1.662
3) Saudi Arabia: 1.537
4) Venezuela: 1.529
5) Nigeria: 1.166
6) Iraq: .531
7) Algeria: .478
8) Angola: .473
9) Russia: .410
10) United Kingdom: .396
11) Virgin Islands (U.S.): .328
12) Ecuador: .283
13) Kuwait: .243
14) Norway: .233
15) Colombia: .196
So Iraq, whose oil fields are firmly in the black-gloved fist of the GWBA, is sixth in U.S. oil imports, a very distant sixth behind Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria. Compared to those top five, Iraq is definitively B-list.
The idea that the U.S. is basking in massive amounts of cheap oil brought to our shores only as a result of toppling Saddam Hussein and killing innocent Iraqis and soldiers is demonstrably nonsense. Iraq is a significant oil supplier to the world and the United States, but they are far from being a giant in the industry, and the United States does not hugely benefit from access to Iraqi oil fields.
If you truly believe we’re in Iraq purely or primarily for control over oil, I have three questions for you:
- Why aren't we invading a much easier-to-conquer country with a larger or comparable amount of oil? I'm guessing that Angola, Algeria, and Nigeria would all have been easier to subdue, even accounting for the unexpected sectarian violence. If George Bush can "invent" evidence to invade Iraq (evidence that every single other intelligence agency in the world simultaneously "invented"), he can invent evidence to invade Angola, can't he? Hell, Canada even. What are they going to do, throw back bacon at us?
- How much does it cost to fill your gas tank these days, because mine is awfully expensive to satisfy. If we're fighting for cheap oil, I hope President Bush invades Angola really soon. This "Invade Iraq to get cheap oil" plan isn't working at all to my satisfaction.
- Where do you suppose President Bush hides his cloven hooves and horns when he appears on TV?
Whoops--look out Iran! The GWBA must be manufacturing all that rhetoric from Ahmedinejad about washing the Earth in nuclear fire to prepare for the return of the Mahdi. It's the only way Bush, Cheney, and Haliburton can get their hands on more oil! Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaa!
Editorial note: I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that assuming the supposedly draconian intentions of President Bush is accurate, intellectually valid, or remotely useful in any kind of discourse. You can't call him a moron one minute and an evil genius the next. You can't call him incompetent on one hand and Machiavellian on the other. Then again, a recent poll showed that 30% of Democrats believe that President Bush was complicit in the September 11 attacks. It's FDR and Pearl Harbor all over again. It's a logical progression, of course: If he stole the 2000 election, he's capable of anything, right? :rolleyes:
But back to the numbers. Overall, in 2005 we imported 13.7 million barrels of oil a day. Only 2.3 million barrels a day came from the Persian Gulf, primarily from Saudi Arabia (not Iraq). Osama bin Laden and most of the 9/11 hijackers come from Saudi Arabia. Numerous members of the Saudi royal family openly support terrorism, far more than Saddam Hussein and the wealthy widow's bounty the Iraqi despot used to pay to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. (I'd love to hear someone explain how that isn't openly supporting terrorism.)
Yet somehow, all the diplomatic language between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is talk of partnership and friendship. How does this happen despite American distress with theocratic Saudi law that brutally oppresses women and features public dismemberment and beheadings? (Where's the NOW and Amnesty International when you need them?) How does this happen despite the massive number of powerful, wealthy international terrorists claiming Saudi citizenship? How does this "partnership" happen when the imperialist infidels have a blasphemous military presence in the nation of Mecca?
The Saudi version of "no blood for oil" could be "no blood for dollars." In America, we tend to disregard the fact that as the oil comes in, something else goes out: massive amounts of money. According to the EIA, Oil export revenues make up 90-95% of Saudi Arabia's export earnings, 70-80% of state revenues, and a whopping 40% of the country's GDP. Dang. Even for the world's largest oil producer, that is a heavy slant on a single resource, and a non-renewable one at that.
The U.S. is a massive customer. If we were to cease and desist from buying Saudi oil, both countries' economies would obviously take downturns. Saudi Arabia provides around 15% of the United States' imported oil (not oil total; this number does not include the U.S.'s own very large oil production). If we stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia, gas prices will go up, and so will the cost of produce and other things we can't even imagine yet.
But Saudi Arabia's economy would collapse. A major pull-out from the country's only significant industry would be a complete economic and humanitarian disaster.
My point? The Saudis need us as much (or very probably much much more) than we need them. And there are a large large number of demonstrably bad guys in power over there, pumping out an endless stream of young fanatics with blood in their eyes and the deaths of Israel and America in their plans.
So I say, if we're going to be outraged about United States policy in the Persian Gulf, perhaps it would be more appropriate to coin a new protest phrase: No diplomacy for oil.