Legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens has managed to say in public what many policymakers and pundits who championed the invasion of Iraq only think to themselves, namely, that oil companies based in the United States are "entitled" to access to Iraq's oil fields because of the American treasure and blood expended in the Iraq war.
It is a curious logic, but entirely in keeping with the mindset of those who say so-called resource nationalism is preventing the Earth's supposed bounty of oil from reaching global markets. (More on that below.) When you parse Pickens' statement it amounts to something like this: Corporate interests based primarily but not exclusively in the United States should be awarded a share of the work in Iraq's oil fields which is currently being parceled out by the Iraqi government because the U. S. military engaged in a hostile invasion of the country followed by a troubled and often deadly six-year occupation.
If one were thinking strictly in terms of the spoils of war, one might make the case that the soldiers of the victorious army should get some share of Iraqi oil wealth--though I doubt the Iraqis would find such a case compelling. But how does one make the case for U. S. oil companies plundering profit from the handiwork of soldiers employed by the United States and by the other countries involved? Doing so would be a public admission that the Iraq war was fought for access to oil and the opportunity to award the profits from that access to favored corporate interests headquartered in the United States. Just how would the soldiers who fought in the conflict feel about that?
And yet, this would be the logical outcome of the resource nationalism argument made by so many oil supply optimists. To review: Resource nationalism is a term which refers to the control of national resources within a border of a country by its government, whether done directly through ownership or indirectly through policy and taxation. Oil optimists love to say that there is plenty of oil in the ground. It's just that the countries that control the reserves are either hoarding them or are incompetent at getting them out of the ground. And, since national governments essentially control 88 percent of the known reserves, the oil optimists say we must place the blame largely on those governments for oil scarcity.
What then are we to do if those governments don't correct the situation to our satisfaction? Boone Pickens has given one answer that some policymakers believe is necessary, but dare not say publicly: Force those governments to produce more oil in accordance with our needs using intermediaries, i.e., U. S. oil companies, to guide such increases in production.
If peak oil is indeed upon us, you can be sure that thinking like this will increasingly animate the war-making councils of oil importing nations even as they dither in making the difficult but necessary decisions to move toward a post-oil society.