Security vs. Sovereignty
OILWATCH Statement at the World Social Forum III
Porto Alegre, Brazil January 2003
As far as US policy is concerned, "without a substantial increase in energy reserves, the United States could face a threat to its national security and its economic well-being". Because of this, all the world's oil reserves have been declared a matter of national security.
The security of the United States threatens the security of the rest of the world. It especially threatens the sovereignty of all the countries where there are oil reserves or from where oil is extracted.
US control of oil and the guaranteeing of access to it was the cause of the Gulf War in 1991, and is also the cause of an imminent war against Iraq, since the world's most important oil reserves lie in that region. Access to this resource led to the intervention in Afghanistan, an important gas pipeline route that connects the Caspian region with Europe.
Similarly, the objective of the war declared in Colombia is the control of oil production in that country and also improving its presence in the region. Specifically, to avoid losing control over the crude oil coming primarily from Venezuela. Plan Puebla Panama and the "New Horizons" military initiative include the construction of pipelines directed toward the United States.
US energy demands require 20 million barrels of oil a day. Its own production and reserves are completely insufficient to meet this need. For each 100 barrels consumed in the United States, 60 are imported, and in 2020 it is estimated to be 75 barrels per 100. The United States consumes half of the world's gasoline, while they comprise only 4% of the human population.
Meeting the demand for oil has justified wars, exploration and extraction in all corners of the world, and over-exploitation of oil fields. The control of fossil fuels, primary energy source for the industrialized north, and more recently the control of electricity generation by transnational companies, allows nations who are high energy consumers the flow of energy to satisfy their demand. In order to consolidate this control they use both a military strategy and an economic one, as personified by the transnational companies. Third World countries, subject to external pressures, have been delegated their functions of control and providers of energy services. Electric companies, transportation, processes of obtaining energy, are privatized, making them hydrocarbon producers as if they were water sources.
Energy has stopped being a social good and has become a commodity where the objective is economic profitability via control by transnational companies. While the United States guarantees its security, nation states have lost control of their energy and their reserves, and have therefore lost sovereignty.
Many Third World countries have less and less energy security, because they are condemned to extract energy for export and to buy dependency with the foreign currency earned. Many Third World countries that have hydrocarbon resources have not even succeeded in gaining security and access for their own population, thanks to an unequal economic model that deprives the majority of the population of the resources. They do not control the price of this resource, nor the process of extraction, because the majority of the companies that extract it (including those that provide services) are transnational companies.
BREAK DOMINATION WITH IMAGINATION
Access to, abuse of or deprivation of energy determine the quality of life of social groups. Access to energy, water and air constitute fundamental human rights, which should be guaranteed for all the planet's inhabitants. These are services, not commodities. Citizens are users of these services, not clients of the companies.
Energy is indispensable in human life and society, and can allow contributions to improve the quality of life of people. Constructing and consolidating from the ground up, proposals related to energy can allow for energy sovereignty. Preventing the continuation of the flow of energy from the south to the north confronts the model based on domination.
In many of the areas where oil is extracted people live who suffer from the destruction of their lands and their resources as a result of this activity. Oil extraction causes the destruction of the bases of sustenance of their cultures. The conservation of nature allows and has allowed the development of lasting productive models.
Proposals such as the moratorium on petroleum expansion are fundamental criticisms of this model and aim to prevent the environmental and economic destruction of these countries.
Impeding the flow of energy from the south to the north continues to confront this model based on domination.
Energy sovereignty is a new concept dealing with the control of our energy sources, the decision how to develop them, distribute them and assure the democratic and decentralized access to them.
An essential condition for energy sovereignty to work is that energy sources become decentralized, clean, renewable, diversified and adapted to the place of origin and local needs. An energy source cannot mean the destruction of the source of life for people living there. The sustainability of the resource must be assured as well as environmental conservation. Technology control must also be present since by any other way a system of dependence is imposed.
We need to break the vicious cycle of dependence on oil which forces us extract it to export it, export it to pay for it, and become indebted to export it.
We insist on a policy of energy sovereignty, demanding our governments to define an energy platform that is democratic and sustainable; that ends our dependence on oil and gas; that ends the dependence on transnational companies and that ends our dependence on imported technologies.
Energy sovereignty is already practiced by indigenous and local communities around the world who maintain their traditional productive practices. They protect the environment and keep the oil industry from expanding into new ecosystems. These communities must be defended and maintained.
Energy sovereignty can be built, developing local and community strategies of energy production and consumption that permits us to be autonomous, breaking dependency and conserving our natural resources.