The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources

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9781250023971: The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources

"As Michael Klare makes clear in this powerful book, the heads of our corporate empires have decided to rip apart the planet in one last burst of profiteering. If you want to understand the next decade, I fear you better read this book."---Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth

The world is facing an unprecedented crisis of resource depletion---a crisis that encompasses shortages of oil and coal, copper and cobalt, water and arable land. With all of the Earth's accessible areas already being exploited, the desperate hunt for supplies has now reached the final frontiers. The Race for What's Left takes us from the Arctic to war zones to deep ocean floors, from a Russian submarine planting the country's flag under the North Pole to the large-scale buying up of African farmland by Saudi Arabia and other food-scarce nations. With resource extraction growing more difficult, the environmental risks are becoming increasingly severe---and the intense search for dwindling supplies is igniting new conflicts and territorial disputes. The only way out, Michael T. Klare argues, is to alter our consumption patterns altogether, a crucial task that will be the greatest challenge of the coming century.

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About the Author:

Michael T. Klare is the author of fourteen books, including Resource Wars and Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet. A contributor to Current History, Foreign Affairs, and the Los Angeles Times, he is the defense correspondent for The Nation and the director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
Driven by DepletionIn 1971, a Mexican fisherman named Rudesino Cantarell encountered an annoying problem while plying his trade off the Yucatán Peninsula: clots of oil, apparently seeping from underground seams in the Bay of Campeche, were clinging to his nets and reducing his catch. After putting up with this inconvenience for some time, Cantarell described his difficulties to officials of the government-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex. This prompted Pemex to conduct an exploratory survey of the area where Cantarell's nets had been contaminated--and at this spot, in 1976, the company found the second most prolific oil field in the world. Whether the fisherman ever received any financial reward for his role in the discovery is not recorded, but the giant field was called "Cantarell" in his honor.1For nearly three decades, the oil gushing from the Cantarell field was a veritable fountain of gold for the Mexican government. By 1981 the field was yielding an impressive 1.2 million barrels per day, and that amount continued to rise in the years that followed. Cantarell's prolific output allowed the Mexican state to significantly increase public spending and helped ensure the extended tenure of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (known as PRI for its initials in Spanish). Indeed, no other asset has contributed more to Mexico's economic vigor in modern times than the discovery and exploitation of Cantarell.2Lying under shallow water some fifty miles off the western coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, the Cantarell field is located in the Chicxulub Crater, produced by a giant asteroid that struck the Earth some 65 million years ago. (Many scientists believe that this asteroid, one of the largest ever to hit the Earth, produced a global cloud of ashes and dust that blocked sunlight and destroyed the food supply for many species, including the dinosaurs, leading to their extinction.)3 The crater is filled with shattered rock and rubble, and this highly fractured geology has made it easy to extract the field's extensive oil reserves. In its best years, Cantarell yielded over 2.1 million barrels of oil per day--more than any other field in the world except the colossal Ghawar deposit in Saudi Arabia.4But the same conditions that made it easy to pump out Cantarell's petroleum bounty also contributed to its rapid decline. As more and more petroleum was drawn from Cantarell, the field's underground cavities emptied out and the ambient pressure dropped, reducing the outflow of oil. By 1995, the yield had fallen to 1 million barrels per day, the lowest recorded in more than fifteen years. To restore higher levels of production, Pemex spent $6 billion on a daring scheme to inject massive volumes of nitrogen into the Cantarell reservoir, intending to boost the underground pressure. For a time, the plan worked as designed, and output rose again--reaching just over 2 million barrels a day in 2003 and 2004. But the use of extraordinary means to increase production only hastened the depletion of the field. By 2005, Cantarell was again in sharp decline, and in 2010 the field produced only 558,000 barrels per day--an astonishing 74 percent reduction from its 2004 peak. At this point, engineers at Pemex possess few options to reverse the slide, and so Cantarell's output is expected to keep falling.5The rapid decline of the Cantarell field has profound implications for Mexico, the United States, and the world at large. In Mexico, the reduction in oil profits has meant a substantial loss of state revenue just as the government is trying to grapple with the global economic crisis and an escalating drug war. The problem is all the greater because Cantarell provided such a large share of Mexico's total oil output. With no other fields capable of replacing it, the country's total oil production has fallen from an average of 3.8 million barrels per day in 2003-06 to 2.9 million barrels in 2010.6 Since Mexican demand for oil is rising even as the production levels continue to fall, sometime before 2015 the country will switch from being a net oil exporter to a net importer, significantly damaging the country's economy.7 Meanwhile, the United States, which imported much of the oil produced at Cantarell, faces the loss of one of its most trusted and reliable sources of energy; as a result, more and more of America's imports will have to come from distant, unreliable suppliers in the Middle East and Africa.The magnitude of Cantarell's decline--and the speed with which it has occurred--has understandably been a shock for Mexican officials, who must now grapple with the consequences. "I don't recall seeing anything in the industry as dramatic as Cantarell," said Mark Thurber, an energy researcher at Stanford University.8 But the field's degeneration also troubles global oil experts, who see in it a premonition of production declines at other major reservoirs, including Ghawar and similar "supergiants" in the Middle East. "The demise of Cantarell highlights a global issue," noted David Luhnow of the Wall Street Journal. "Nearly a quarter of the world's daily oil output of 85 million barrels is pumped from the biggest 20 fields.... And many of those fields, discovered decades ago, could soon follow in Cantarell's footsteps."9In many ways, the story of Cantarell's rise and fall provides a microcosm of the global resource dilemma. Many of the world's principal sources of oil--and of coal, natural gas, uranium, copper, and assorted other vital materials--were, like Cantarell, discovered several decades ago and are now becoming less and less productive. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), all but a few large oil fields have already reached their peak output levels and now face long-term decline.10 Unless new reservoirs of comparable size and productivity are discovered in the years ahead, the global supply of oil will inevitably contract. The outlook is similar for other raw materials, even if the details vary slightly case by case. Since few discoveries can be expected in the world's existing, well-explored resource zones, any increase in worldwide output will require the development of untapped reserves in new and often inhospitable locations.The decline of existing sources of supply and the hunt for new reserves in more remote and more dangerous areas is not a new phenomenon. Virtually all of the minerals and fossil fuels at the core of modern industrial civilization are finite materials that exist in deposits of varying degrees of size, richness, and accessibility. Almost always, producers begin by drawing on the deposits that are the easiest to find and exploit--typically, those that lie close to the surface, are located near major markets, and require minimal refining and processing. When these high-quality, easily accessed deposits are exhausted, resource firms inevitably must seek fresh reserves in places that are less convenient--usually deeper underground, farther offshore, in smaller and less concentrated deposits, or in far-flung areas of the globe. For a time, the development of new technology allows resources to be profitably extracted from these harsher, more difficult locations. But the logic of depletion is unyielding. Every fresh advance in mining and drilling techniques leads to the exploitation of hard-to-reach reserves, until those deposits, too, are exhausted--and then the cycle of exploration and production begins anew in even more demanding circumstances.The depletion of existing resource deposits and the search for new sources of supply was in large measure the driving force behind European colonialism in Africa, Asia, and the Americas from the fifteenth century onward. But what occurred in the past over a lengthy span of time is now happening very rapidly: many of the world's main reservoirs of vital materials are facing systemic depletion at the same time, leaving corporations and governments urgently scrambling to find replacements. As the wholesale exhaustion of the world's natural resource base coincides with unprecedented demand for these materials, the race for what's left is set in motion.The Great Postwar Resource BoomThe Cantarell oil field in Mexico, the Ghawar field in Saudi Arabia, and many of the other giant oil reservoirs that we rely on today for a large share of our petroleum supply--along with the biggest reserves of natural gas, copper ore, and other vital materials that we depend on--were mostly discovered in the decades after World War II, when giant energy and mining companies scoured the world in search of new reserves to supply the booming world economy. Between 1950 and 2001, the world's combined gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 600 percent in real terms, jumping from $5.3 to $37.2 trillion in 1990 dollars.11 This extraordinary surge in global economic activity produced an insatiable need for resources of all types: energy for transportation, manufacturing, and electricity generation; minerals for buildings, infrastructure, and consumer products; and food and water to sustain a growing (and increasingly urbanized) global population. As Table 1.1 shows, production of most of the basic resources rose dramatically during the postwar years. The amount of copper mined in 2000 was almost five times what it had been in 1950; the production of natural gas increased nearly twelvefold; and other natural resources showed similarly impressive gains during those decades.12To achieve these mammoth increases in resource output, the world's extractive industries had to expand beyond the well-established reservoirs that they had been exploiting at the end of World War II--reservoirs located largely in North America, Europe, and the Soviet Union. Those existing mines, oil fields, and gas reserves were not remotely large enough to support the ever-increasing levels of output demanded by the burgeoning world economy, so the resource firms were obliged to seek new reserves in other parts of the world. As a result of this drive, many resource-rich are...

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Book Description Picador USA, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. The world is facing an unprecedented crisis of resource depletion - a crisis that encompasses shortages of oil, coal and natural gas, copper and cobalt, water and arable land. With all of the Earth s habitable areas already in use, the desperate hunt for supplies has now reached the final frontiers. The Race for What s Left takes us from the Arctic to war zones to deep ocean floors, from a Russian submarine planting the country s flag under the North Pole to the large-scale buying up of African farmland by Saudi Arabia and other nations. With resource extraction growing more complex, the environmental risks are becoming increasingly severe - and the intense search for dwindling supplies is igniting new border disputes. The only way out, Klare argues, will be to alter our consumption patterns altogether, a crucial task that will be the greatest challenge of the coming century. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9781250023971

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