Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet The New Geopolitics of Energy

Michael T. Klare

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Trade Paperback

352 Pages



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In March 2005, an unprecedented Chinese attempt to acquire the major American energy firm Unocal was blocked by Congress amidst hysterical warnings of a Communist threat. But the political grandstanding missed a larger point: the takeover bid was a harbinger of a new structure of world power, based not on market forces or on arms and armies but on the possession of vital natural resources.

Surveying the energy-driven dynamic that is reconfiguring the international landscape, Michael Klare, the preeminent expert on resource geopolitics, forecasts a future of surprising new alliances and explosive danger. World leaders are now facing the stark recognition that all materials vital for the functioning of modern industrial societies (not just oil and natural gas but uranium, coal, copper, and others) are finite and being depleted at an ever-accelerating rate. As a result, governments rather than corporations are increasingly spearheading the pursuit of resources. In a radically altered world—where Russia is transformed from battered Cold War loser to arrogant broker of Eurasian energy, and the United States is forced to compete with the emerging "Chindia" juggernaut—the only route to survival on a shrinking planet, Klare shows, is through international cooperation.


Praise for Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet

"What happens to world politics in an era marked by rising oil prices and resource scarcity? In this provocative study, Klare depicts a coming struggle for energy that will ignite dangerous geopolitical competition, with major states increasingly intervening in markets in an attempt to gain access and control."—John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs

"In clear and compelling fashion Michael Klare warns of the dangers of conflict among the United States, China, and Russia, all jostling for energy. More important, he proposes realistic cooperative projects that can prevent competition from spiraling into war. Policy makers and public alike need to read this book."—Admiral Dennis C. Blair, Director of National Intelligence

"A brilliant exposition on one of the gigantic problems facing society. Klare is a top expert on the politics of energy and resources."—Paul R. Ehrlich, author of The Dominant Animal

"Klare gives a good, comprehensive account of the tightening noose of available conventional energy resources. From 'peak oil' to the under-reported limitations of available fuel supply for nuclear power, here is a convincing case that the energy crunch is at least as threatening, if not more so, as the current credit crisis. Especially relevant in the current energy debate is Klare's point that there is only 40 years' worth of available uranium supply left to feed the world's 440 civilian reactors, and that any growth in nuclear generation will reduce that further . . . Climate change, Klare writes, is the 'ultimate squeeze.' It sounds like a rather terrifying hot date which, of course, it is. The future, he argues, is a bigger role for the state and more state collaboration, especially between China and the US."—New Scientist

"Four centuries ago, as the conquistadors roamed through South America, it was the search for gold that drove the clash of empires. A hundred years later, as the great powers fought over the West Indies, it was the quest for land that could grow sugar cane. Today, the key commodity is oil. No one knows this subject better than Michael Klare, and his book is a trenchant and informative guide to what the fatal thirst for oil means for the tensions and rivalries of our fragile planet."—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost

"If you want to understand the future of international relations, worry less about ideology and more about oil reserves. Michael Klare's superb new book explains, in haunting detail, the trends that will lead us into a series of dangerous traps, unless we muster the will to transform the way we use energy in this country. As illuminating as it is unsettling."—Bill McKibben, author of The Bill McKibben Reader

"Once again, Michael Klare has vividly spelled out the geopolitical ramifications of resource scarcity as he did in both Blood and Oil and Resource Wars. His new book deals with our pending clash as we enter an unprecedented time of surging demand for oil while its conventional supply peaks. The book is a serious must read for any student of geopolitics."—Matthew R. Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert

"When danger looms, ignorance is not bliss. Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet defines a new benchmark for understanding the perilous complexities of strategic natural resources and how they shape the modern world. Klare articulates his message with sober honesty and appropriate urgency. If knowledge is power, it is also empowering; let us use this information to rekindle hope and commit to action, vigorously adopting the practical and profitable solutions that already do exist."—Amory B. Lovins, author of Winning the Oil Endgame

"A cheerless prognostication of a future driven by energy—acquisition battles that will prove especially gloomy for those who think that the price of gas is already too high. It has long been observed that the wars of the 21st century will be about such things as oil and water. The Nation defense analyst and national-security specialist Klare is well positioned to write about such things. At the outset, he establishes a matter-of-fact tone that assumes the worst, at least if you're a neocon: The United States was supposed to be the world's one superpower after the Cold War ended, but at the moment Russia and China are rising rapidly, the former because of its vast energy holdings and potential, the latter because it has so much American money as a result of a staggering trade imbalance. The United States is thus not among the 'nations that wield disproportionate power in the international system by virtue of their superior energy reserves,' even if the continued occupation of Iraq may one day give an advantage to U.S. energy companies. Energy is its own politics: For all the sword-waving and name-calling, the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez still supplies ten percent of America's imported oil; the Darfur tragedy is ongoing precisely because Sudan has energy reserves and enjoys the diplomatic patronage of its chief customer for oil, China; the dictatorship of Kazakhstan is golden because it has so much oil, with Dick Cheney praising its government for 'impressive political development' despite having rigged the last few elections and forbidden opposition. Klare urges several policy changes at the national and international level, including not just the expected call for increased efficiencies and the development of renewable energy, but also the formulation of new consortia: an alliance of Japan and China for the peaceful development of gas fields in the South China Sea. A useful survey for students of energy, geopolitics and realpolitik."—Kirkus Reviews

"Looking at the 'new international energy order,' author and journalist Klare finds America's 'sole superpower' status falling to the increasing influence of 'petro-superpowers' like Russia and 'Chindia.' Klare identifies and analyzes the major players as well as the playing field, positing armed conflict and environmental disaster in the balance. Currently in the lead is emerging energy superpower Russia, which has gained 'immense geopolitical influence' selling oil and natural gas to Europe and Asia; the rapidly developing economies of China and India follow. Klare also warns of the danger of a new cold-war environment that would suck up resources that should go toward 'environmentally sensitive energy alternatives.' To avert catastrophe, he urges a U.S. diplomatic initiative to build collaboration with China (rapidly moving to second place in carbon emissions) to develop alternative energy resources, such as biodiesel fuels; ultra-light, ultra-efficient vehicles; and an innovative plan to use new coal plants, currently in development, to strip carbon waste which can then be buried underground. Well-researched and incisive throughout, Klare provides a comprehensive but approachable overview of a complex problem, and offers promising policy alternatives to disaster."—Publishers Weekly

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Chapter 1

It was not supposed to turn out this way. When the Cold War ended in 1990, American policymakers generally assumed that the United States would henceforth enjoy a position of unchallenged preponderance. It would be secure in its...

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  • Michael T. Klare

  • Michael T. Klare is the author of thirteen books, including Blood and Oil and Resource Wars. A regular contributor to Harper's, Foreign Affairs, and the Los Angeles Times, he is the defense analyst for The Nation and the director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst.

  • Michael Klare Ellen Augarten


    Michael Klare

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