Customer Reviews: Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy
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on May 15, 2008
I found this book to be thorough, well written, and thought provoking. Though I had read other books about energy, this gave me a better understanding about the political aspects, changing alliances, and the extent of the problem. After several chapters that can be described as doom and gloom, Klare does offer some suggestions on the world's way out - if we make a serious effort to do so. I strongly recommend this book.
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on June 2, 2008
If anyone is wondering why we have such high gasoline prices in this country this book might give us some clues as to the reason(s) behind such increases in price- peak oil. But not just that- it's peak everything! Increasingly as China, India, Japan, Russia, United States, and Canada compete for natural resources, we are depleting them at a very rapid rate. The author thinks we are pretty much at peak oil and will soon reach peak natural gas in the next decade. Due to the increased competition for resources, alliances have been built to ensure access to these resources via weapons trade and security whether it be in Africa, Central Asia, or Latin America. Countries are even competing for the remaining 25% of oil reserves in the North Pole. Michael Klare believes that if this gun boat diplomacy build up continues, we will be looking at another global war which would be catatrophic for the world. Unfortunately, his suggestions for alternative energy sources are of little consolation give that research and development are still at the early stages and in no way can compete with petroleum. I seriously doubt diplomacy will work as Klare suggests given the history of world conflict and the quest for precious resources. I find the current state of world affairs to be very frightening. Nevertheless, this book provides important information that is sure to startle you. So if you want to understand world affairs and politics as it relates to oil and other natural resources, this book is a must. Highly recommend.
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on August 7, 2008
This book should not be read at night when alone. This book if read sober will scare the s*$# out of you. The truth has a tendency to do that to people. Every US citizen should read this book no matter your job, education, or whatever. Michael Klare hit a home run with this book.

As America sits in front of their TV stuck in a deep trance about American Idol or the latest screw up by some movie or pop star the world has been changing. Everyone still thinks things are like the way they were in the 50s, America sits on top of the world. I only wish things were like that. The recent spike in gas prices at the pump shows us all how things are NOT like the 50s.

This book shows the reader just how the world has changed. He chronicles the change in both the world and the world oil market. Rising powers, thus the name of the book like China and India have drastically increased their thirst for oil. This increase demand on oil from those two countries and others have changed the world oil market. At the same time the safe fields in places like Texas have dried up. This has forced the oil providers to go deeper into the world's sewage ponds to get that oil.Those ponds are increasing more and more violent and less and less stable. These two things are creating a unique market paradox. Prices have jumped as we all have seen.

The rising demand various countries are experiencing is pushing countries to work harder to secure that oil. Klare does a great job documenting how China is aggressively doing whatever it takes to secure that oil. Oil is no longer just a good. It is a strategic asset for almost every country. Every country defines not only growth but survival in terms of oil availability.

As a result of this new view of oil nations are posturing like crazy all over the country to ensure that their interests are taken care of. That is where the scary part of the book enters into things. The modern day suburban opinion is that man has evolved out of war. That is behind us. Of course the people that believe that are the ones who don't go to war. People forget two of man's bloodiest wars started by accident, over night. Klare puts it best:

"As the desire for ever scarcer energy supplies builds, the potential to slide across this threshold into armed conflict and possibly great power confrontation poses one of the greatest dangers facing the planet today"

After reading the book you will see what he is talking about. It pans out in the news almost everyday. Those readers who are Christian believers will really be shocked. The story of competition for oil reads a great deal like the prophesy of the end times spoken about in numerous books of the bible. It also reads like the old Hal Lindsey book in the 70s about the "Late Great Planet Earth".

Klare ends with a call for diplomacy to work things out. He is right about calling for that. However I doubt it will work. When you are cold from no oil or hungry or have your national pride wounded because of oil related problems nations might not be in the mood for diplomacy.
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on August 30, 2010
The problem with this book, like most other economics books that include figures and predictions, is that it becomes old fast. For instance, in 2008, China was the fourth largest economy in the world and Klare predicted it would become the second largest in a decade or so. China overtook Japan to become second largest economy, behind the US, last week.
This said, despite the outdated figures, the book's main arguments remain intact and applicable today.
Rising Powers opens by introducing the link between energy-producer states and energy consumers, and shows how such links have defined the geopolitics of the world ever since fossil fuel became centerpiece in the life of civilization, more than two centuries ago.
The continuous consumption of fossil fuel was based on the assumption that oil companies will keep on discovering new sources at a pace faster than that of the demand. Apparently that turned out to be false as companies seem to have discovered them all. Klare argues that out of 116 giant oil fields that supply the world with most of its demand today, only four were discovered in the past quarter of a century.
Not only the globe has surveyed and tapped most of its oil resources, demand for oil has skyrocketed with the transformation of the economies of the world's two most populated countries, China and India, from agrarian to heavy industrial.
Meanwhile, after having conceded its oil and natural gas resources to private firms in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, with its former President, and now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, came back. Employing some arm-twisting and other illicit tactics, Putin nationalized the oil and gas firms, and monopolized them in the hands of the state. This gave Russia immense geostrategic power, and Moscow has been keen on using it in countering America's attempts to tap hydrocarbon resources in the former Soviet republics, especially in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Klare identifies three world regions for fossil fuel production: Africa, the Capsian Sea and the "American Lake" or the Middle East. He argues that the race over tapping oil resources around the world has created two main proto-blocs. In the first is the US, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kazakhstan, among others. In the second is Russia, China, Iran, Sudan Uzbekistan, Armenia and other countries.
While not an imminent threat yet, Klare believes that the politics of Great Powers arming their energy-producing allies is a dangerous game, especially when mixed with populist politics of nationalism.
He concludes by writing that the energy race has been straining the environment, leading to global warming and slowing economies. Instead, Klare argues - albeit naively - that oil poor America and China should not be competing but rather complementing each other's quest for alternative, clean and renewable sources of energy.
In this, Klare fails to notice that only because both America and China are oil poor, does not mean that they will cooperate to discover alternative fuel. Telling from history, in such situations, it will be the race toward alternative energy that would ultimately result in finding a solution. And, also from history, whichever nations arrives at the breakthrough of discovering energy that is alternative to fossil fuel first will thereafter enjoy the reaps of its discovery and rule the world for decades to come.
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on July 7, 2010
Michael Klare's book is provocative and informative. It is interesting to read how Russia, China, and India are rising as major players in the quest for oil and natural gas. Additionally, it is interesting to consider how their entry can (and already does) affect geopolitics.

Klare raises an interesting point throughout the book, perhaps the most provocative of all. This is the idea that the only way for any state to truly have energy security isn't through war, but working with other states: e.g. U.S. working with--rather than against--China.

The prospect for a future showdown between the United States and Russia or China is within the realm of possibility. While such a conflict in the conventional sense, Klare overstates this possibility on a certain level. The more likely scenario would similar to what Russia has already done to Ukraine: i.e. manipulating energy supplies (including cutting it off) as a political tactic.
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on July 14, 2008
The charts alone tell the story of what lies ahead. The most striking figure for me is that the US, the world's sole superpower for the last 2 decades, holds 3.3% of the world's natural gas reserves yet produces and uses 18.5% of the world total - not sustainable long term strategy for a country that refuses to invest meaningfully or intelligently in efficiency or alternative sources of energy. More concerning yet is the growing concentration of the world's dwindling oil reserves in unstable regions of the world where ALL of the major developing and developed countries are involved in a high stakes, high nerves 21st century version of the Great Game. Klare lays out the situation simply and clearly and lets the reader draw most of the conclusions. It doesn't take much editorializing to help us understand why the US has 12 major military bases in the Gulf region or why China refuses to condemn the appalling situations in Sudan or Zimbabwe. For anyone who wants to understand the larger picture, this is a great book.
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on March 15, 2014
This well-researched, data-rich, and thought-provoking book is a good primer for anyone who wants to be more literate about the geopolitics and geoeconomics of energy in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Although there have been significant energy-related geopolitical developments since the book was published in 2008 -- for example, China's increasingly aggressive encroachments into its neighbors' territorial waters and Russia's incursions into the Ukraine -- the context provided by this book makes these developments easy to understand, irrespective of how one judges them from legal and moral perspectives. The book's 269 pages of narrative are accompanied by helpful maps, tables and over 50 pages of end-notes. Highly recommended.
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When the Cold war ended, Americans generally assumed the U.S. would enjoy unchallenged preponderance in the world. Instead, Russia now has reemerged as a major actor and the U.S. has, in contrast, sometimes found itself cajoling foreign suppliers to increase output. Meanwhile, China's foreign currency reserves in late 2007 were $1.4 trillion, and rich Arab states recently invested $20 billion into Citibank.

According to the U.S. DOE, world energy supplies must increase 57% over the next quarter-century. This will not be met by increased alternative fuels - existing sources will provide 87% of the total need, but be harder to obtain.

Many believe this DOE projection of increased supply is optimistic - it counts on a 67% increase from Saudi Arabia. Nearly half of current oil production comes from 116 fields - all but four were discovered over 25 years ago, and many are showing signs of diminished capacity. Regardless, current consumption is double the discovery rate. As for alternative sources, it takes about 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas to produce 1 million barrels of oil from tar sands, as well as enormous quantities of scare water. (Gas finds are similarly declining - production is expected to peak soon as well, and this is not even counting increased demand due to Kyoto promises to use less-polluting fuel.) Corn is no cure either - considerable energy is used producing ethanol and it already is linked to substantial protests over increased food prices.

America's military used 1 gallon of petroleum/soldier/day during WWII, 4 in Gulf War I, and 16 currently in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Other trends are that oil control is increasingly moving into national hands (eg. Russia, Venezuela), and oil companies are increasing their clout (and profits) by moving into refining, transportation, and marketing. Klare also tells us that coal production is expected to peak in the late 2020's, and nuclear fuel availability to last only 40 years - again assuming no increase in utilization.

Still another problem: Increasing "gunboat diplomacy" (eg. U.S. fleet sailing through the Straits of Hormuz, China and Japan squaring off over a large off-shore gas field that both claim, new U.S. and Russian bases in the "stans," and alliances between various nations to protect oil interests), and arming of second/third-level nations in Africa and the mid-East by the U.S., Russia, and China.

Klare suggests the U.S. begin working collaboratively with China, and increased research on alternatives fuel sources. Conservation is another key opportunity - for example, Paul Krugman's 5/12/08 column points out that France uses only half the per capita oil of the U.S., and is hardly considered an impoverished nation.
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on July 18, 2008
This is the latest offering from one of the most insightful analysts of national and global security issues. In this book, Klare is essentially warning of the impending energy crisis, both related to climate change and to the increasing scarcity of petroleum, and of how both will likely escalate into political and/or military crises. He tells the sordid tale of the unholy alliances the United States has historically entered into to secure access to petroleum, and reveals the dynamics of the current global energy market--who has it, who needs it, the deals being cut to access it, and what the consequences of this arrangement may be. Klare also makes a compelling case for US/Chinese cooperation on things like carbon sequestration for coal-powered power plants to mitigate global warming, since both nations will continue to rely heavily on this dirtiest of fuels. He also makes a strong pitch for a rapid and massive move toward renewable energy sources as a key part of not only securing energy, but securing peace as well.

"Oil will cease to be primarily a traded commodity, but instead the preeminent strategic resource on the planet -- with power struggles over energy being the defining characteristic of the new century."
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on July 4, 2013
Thinking about the wasting of the world's resources? Here is a book that tells you lots about how many countries are using, exporting and not noticing how this resource is dwindling.
Good reading!
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