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Part II in FTW's Series on the End of the Age of Oil -
Population Reduction of 3 Billion A Global Necessity?

What Will Be the Next Target of the Oil Coup?

by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

FTW, January 29, 2002 -- If it is true that an oil coup has taken control in this country and is seeking to consolidate its power throughout the world, based on the fact that world oil and natural gas production are set to go into decline, then what does this hold for the future? Using this as our hypothesis, we should be able to predict future military actions by comparing production profiles for various oil producing countries with the political climate within these same countries. For this purpose, we are using production profiles developed by Richard C. Duncan and Walter Youngquist through the use of their World Oil Forecasting Program in 1998.1 The data has changed very little since that time, except for a slight upgrade in projected Caspian Sea oil reserves and a slightly higher than projected oil demand. In addition to oil production there are also other factors which need to be taken into account, such as other resource deposits, demand, and population. Not all of these factors are as well documented as oil production, and so we will use this as our focal point, adding in other information where available.

Finally, we have to wonder not only about the motives of this supposed oil coup, but we also need to speculate on whether the perpetrators fully understand the implications of energy depletion. In other words, will they be able to hold on to their power in the face of the breakdown of civilization? And what might they do if they thought they were losing control?

First let us look at the situation in North America, as reported by Duncan and Youngquist.

North American Oil Production

The United States was the first country to peak in its oil production, back in 1970. The United States exploited its oil to provide the standard of living enjoyed today. However, after 1970 the continuation of this standard of living has depended upon increasing imports of oil. Notice the slight raising and leveling off of the production curve in the early 1980s as oil from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska was brought on line. The Prudhoe Bay fields peaked in 1985 and have been in decline since. At one time, the USA had abundant, easily exploited oil reserves -- production peaked at over 4 billion barrels per year -- but those days are behind us now. Even the Alaska National Wildlife Arctic Reserves (ANWAR) will make little difference to this picture.

Not long after the United States peak, resources in Mexico and Canada came on line, providing some salvation in the regional picture. However, the resources of both countries taken at their peaks do not equal the peak production of the United States. Mexico peaked a year ago, while Canada is not expected to peak for another 10 years.

In the overall regional picture, you can see the United States peak in 1970, followed by a short decline and then a recovery. As a region, North America peaked in 1985. After a slight secondary peak taking place right now, North American oil production is expected to plummet. The only untapped reserves left in this region are in ANWAR, and their affect would be negligible on this graph. Tar sands and shale deposits in Canada may contain the equivalent of more than 150 billion barrels of oil which could theoretically become economical to produce once conventional deposits are in decline. However, it is unlikely that production can be brought on line quickly enough to offset the shock of conventional oil depletion.2 Beyond this, there are grave environmental problems associated with the exploitation of these deposits. Namely, the tar sands and oil shales can only be harvested through massive strip mining. And, once the oil has been extracted, there will be literally thousands of tons of sand and shale slag to be dealt with, not to mention other more harmful wastes.

Where are We to Turn?

Contrary to what you might think, the United States does not receive the bulk of its oil imports from the Middle East. Thus far, our oil imports have come from South and Central America, chiefly Venezuela and Colombia. Venezuela alone accounts for more than 53% of the oil in this region.3 However, Venezuelan oil production already appears to be peaking a little sooner than Duncan and Youngquist's program predicted.

Venezuela also holds what is perhaps the world's greatest deposit of unconventional oil: the Orinoco oil belt, which contains an estimated 1.2 trillion barrels of the sludge known as heavy oil. This is a great resource; however, it is known as heavy sludge because it is highly contaminated by sulfur and heavy metals. The removal and disposal of these elements would have to be attained without destroying the economic viability of the deposits. And, as with the Canadian oil sands, such a project is unlikely to be brought on line in time to offset the shock of declining oil production.

Colombia's oil deposits are predicted to peak around 2010. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to produce more than one third of a billion barrels per day at peak. There is currently a lot of speculation about a major oil strike in the southeastern foothills of Colombia's Andes. Geologists in the area have made some interesting discoveries, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet. It has long been suspected that a major field must exist somewhere between the Venezuelan oil fields and the oil shales of the Peruvian Andes. Yet, with all our modern probing, this field has failed to turn up. This author suspects that exploration in Colombia will turn up no new, major oil fields -- though it may turn up minor deposits. This author suspects that the mother lode of South American hydrocarbon deposits has already been found, in the form of the Orinoco heavy oil sludge.

In any case, it is quite plain the United States needs the oil of this region. And production of these oil resources is threatened by political instabilities. Colombia is a divided country rocked by over 50 years of civil war. And Venezuela has also become increasingly unstable in just the past year. President Hugo Chavez has been bucking US imperialism and oil interests for some time now. A new Hydrocarbons Law, which took effect at the beginning of 2002, will require that state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA hold a minimum 51% stake in future joint ventures involving exploration and exploitation. And the law will impose the world's highest royalty rates on companies operating in Venezuela's oil fields. President Chavez insists that such a move is necessary to rescue the Venezuelan economy and to help ease poverty in the country. Similar moves toward nationalization in the past led to US backed coups in Guatemala and Iran, to site just two examples.4 Early in November 2001, the National Security Agency, the Pentagon and the US State Department held a two-day meeting on US policy toward Venezuela. This meeting was supposedly held in response to a Chavez statement that the US was fighting "terrorism with terrorism." It is quite likely that among the options discussed at this meeting was a coup against Chavez.5 Elsewhere in South America, Ecuador almost fell a year ago to a grassroots coalition of peasants and Indians. Farther south, Bolivia has been destabilized by a peasants' revolt sparked by privatization of their water supply. Even farther south, in Argentina, the economy has crashed and the government has dissolved. People are rioting and looting grocery stores. Brazil has been economically shaken by the fall of Argentina and by the growing strength of the MST -- the landless peasant movement. In fact, it would be difficult to find a truly stable government anywhere in South America at this time.

Under Clinton and Bush II, the United States has poured billions worth of military aid into Colombia, ostensibly to fight the drug war, though our support has gone to military and paramilitary units rife with drug trafficking. The US is currently sponsoring a massive defoliation program in Colombia, and we are increasing the number of US military advisors in the country. FARC, the rebel force which controls half of the country, has pledged to target US personnel. And there is word from the state department, since September 11th, that we will consider rebel forces in Colombia to be international terrorists. This author looks for a terrorist/drug war in Colombia which will probably spill over into Venezuela and Ecuador, maybe even Peru. A war in this region will be long and bloody, and may make Vietnam look like a Sunday picnic.

The Former Soviet Union

All lumped together under the title Former Soviet Union, we have not only Russia proper, but also Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Caspian Sea region. This graph is probably the least accurate of Duncan and Youngquist's predictions, due to lack of data at the time they modeled this graph and also due to exigencies of politics and economics. Duncan and Youngquist did under-assess the Caspian Sea resources, though the correct figures make little difference in their overall world predictions. Most importantly, they did not figure on Russia opening up oil production and exportation to the extent that it has at present, purely due to economic factors.

The oil coup has already moved in this region -- the attack on Afghanistan only being the most visible evidence of this. Perhaps more importantly for their interests, the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have opened their countries to the presence of NATO forces. Bases have already been established in all of these countries. It is certain that deals have also been hammered out with these countries for the exploitation of their oil and natural gas resources.

It is also very likely that the oil coup has its eyes on Russia itself. In this case, Russia's nuclear might precludes an overt attack. Through the 1990s, western financiers looted the Russian economy until there was hardly anything left. At present, Putin has no choice but to open up oil exports just to keep his government solvent. Russian President Vladimir Putin has placed himself as a vassal to the oil coup; however, he is not entirely happy with the actions of the western states. Bush's rush for a missile defense system would negate Russia's last claim to superpower. We can only hope that the oil coup is not foolish enough to provoke a nuclear war with Russia.

The Middle East

It is in the Middle East that the real grab for world power will be played out. According to Duncan and Youngquist's model, by 2007 the Middle East will dominate the world in oil production. This will be the last region where oil production will peak, according to Duncan and Youngquist's model, sometime around 2011. And the oil of the Middle East lies largely in the provinces of five countries: Iran, Iraq, The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

All but two of these countries are closely tied to the United States and are likely to be players in the oil coup. The exceptions are Iraq and Iran. Iraq's ability to export oil has been severely restricted since the first Gulf War. Likewise, Iran faced stiff embargoes following the fall of the Shah in the 1970's. However, in neither of these countries does the oil coup have clear control over oil resources. Likewise, both countries are targeted as terrorist states. Right now, Israel and powers in the United States are lobbying strongly to make Iraq the next target in the "War Against Terrorism." Rumor has it that this war is slated to begin early in 2002. This author would suggest that, after finishing off Saddam Hussein, the oil coup will then set its sites on Iran. We can say with certainty that the oil coup will want to have both these countries firmly in control before the OPEC crossover event.

But how stable are the governments of the other three major Arab states? The Saudi royals sit very uneasily on their throne. The hundreds of princes which make up the house of Fahd are extremely unpopular due to their own corruption„both economic and moral. National Security Agency electronic intercepts demonstrate that the Saudi princes routinely pay protection money to Islamic extremists, including Hamas and Al Qa'ida. NSA and CIA analysts have noted that it would not take much for an Islamic fundamentalist coup to overthrow the royals. Likewise, a secret CIA study put together in the mid-1980s concludes that terrorists with only a handful of explosives could take the Saudi oil fields off line for two years.

‡The oil producing Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have all seen large population increases since they began pumping oil. In a couple of generations, they have gone from being simple nomadic peoples to sophisticated urbanites. All of these countries have highly developed welfare states financed by oil money. Unfortunately for them, the rate of population growth has exceeded their ability to financially support the population. It is for this reason that the Arab countries were exceeding their oil quotas throughout the late-1990s, in an effort to cover the expenses of their welfare systems. And let us not forget that these are all desert nations. By the year 2020, all of these countries will have passed peak oil production and be in decline. By that time, none of them will be able to support their populations.6 The result will be starvation, economic disaster and civil unrest. How will the oil coup hope to hold this ship together?


Based on the analysis presented above, we believe that the most likely targets in the "War on Terrorism" will be Iraq, Iran, Colombia, Venezuela, and possibly (though hopefully not) Russia. That there will be actions in other theatres is certain. It is very likely that Somalia will be targeted soon. And, as they hold the world's richest deposit of uranium, Somalia is not without valuable resources. Other Middle Eastern or Central Asian nations not mentioned here could also be targeted for a number of reasons, energy resources among them. Likewise Indonesia, if that country became too unstable. Then there are actions which could be strictly political, or which could be viewed as vendettas. North Korea, the Philippines, and Cuba could fall into this category. Yet, it is FTW's belief that the main targets for military action in the years to come will be those stated in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Will the oil coup be successful? That is to be doubted. Just as the Middle Eastern countries can expect problems because their population will surpass their ability to care for them, so will the rest of the world. The entire civilization is apt to break down chaotically, in ways that no one can foresee. Possibly the greatest single problem resulting from all this will be the failure of modern agriculture. Without petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, experts predict that world agriculture will only be able to comfortably support a population of two billion.7 The current world population is over six billion.

What will the members of the oil coup do when they realize they are losing control? If faced with starving, angry masses throughout the world„in the first world as well as the third world -- what would be the response of the oil coup? Would they roll over and die, or would they strike back with everything available? It is truly to be hoped that they do not foresee this contingency, or they may decide to unleash biological warfare on the population of the entire world.


1. THE WORLD PETROLEUM LIFE-CYCLE, Richard C. Duncan and Walter Youngquist. Presented at the PTTC Workshop "OPEC Oil Pricing and Independent Oil Producers," Petroleum Technology Transfer Council Petroleum Engineering Program, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California; October 22, 1998.
A PDF Version of this paper is available at

2. THE END OF CHEAP OIL, by Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherr²re, Scientific American, March 1998.



5. US COOKING UP A COUP IN VENEZUELA? by Conn Hallinan. San Francisco Examiner, 12/28/2001.

6. KING'S RANSOM: HOW VULNERABLE ARE THE SAUDI ROYALS? by Seymour M. Hersh. The New Yorker, October 22, 2001.


Dale Allen Pfeiffer is a Michigan structural geologist, activist, and novelist. He can be reached at:

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