The world unseen
One of the distortions caused by the provincial 'blame America for everything crowd' is that it distracts the public from noticing that other real forces are at work in the world. While much newspaper space has been devoted to the crisis in Chad, almost no major outlet has focused on China's role in that country. China, whose "net imports of crude oil in the first eight months of 2007 soared more than 18%" to 110.4 million tons of crude oil, despite record domestic outputs of crude is building an oil refinery in Chad, north of N'Djamena. The Financial Express notes that China has a large presence in Africa as its search for energy takes it every further afield. (Hat tip: CG)
Since its first cooperation on oil exploration with Sudan in 1996, China, which needs to import oil to support its double-digit economic growth, has invested in 27 major oil and natural gas projects in 14 African countries by 2005 end, including Sudan, Algeria, Angola and Nigeria.
A Council for Foreign Relations backgrounder notes that oil is simply one of the commodities China is increasingly seeking in Africa. It is now a major player on the African continent. Africa is now being reshaped by dramatic events from Congo to Kenya, Sudan to Chad. But not all the major actors are in the West. One will increasingly be from the Far East.
China's manufacturing sector has created enormous demand for aluminum, copper, nickel, iron ore, and oil. Zweig and Bi write that China "has been able to adapt its foreign policy to its domestic development strategy" to an unprecedented level by encouraging state-controlled companies to seek out exploration and supply contracts with countries that produce oil, gas, and other resources. At the same time, Beijing aggressively courts the governments of those countries with diplomacy, trade deals, debt forgiveness, and aid packages. The strategy is working: China has gained access to key resources around the world, from gold in Bolivia and coal in the Philippines to copper in Chile and natural gas in Australia. And, of course, oil from Africa.
Africa ain't what it used to be. Neither is the pristine white north. While a great deal of effort has been devoted to opposing potential oil drilling in the Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which perennially threatens to ruin the 'fragile' northern environment, fewer have paid attention to what is actually the biggest integrated oil and gas project in the world: Sakhalin Energy. Terra Daily describes this huge and low-profile project as a 500 mile-long scar on the landscape. It's as if every liberal accusation against President George W. Bush came true -- unnoticed. Environmental groups have worked to revoke the Russian environmental permits of Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi, which have jointly funded this project. But that is unlikely to put a stop to Sakhalin Energy, simply transfer its ownership to Putin's burgeoning gas empire.
Russian officials are now moving to revoke environmental authorisation granted in 2003 for Sakhalin Energy -- one of the biggest privately funded energy projects in the world. ... Energy analysts believe the environmental violations are a pretext being used by the Russian government to pressure Sakhalin Energy to sell a large stake to state gas monopoly Gazprom.
One of Sakhalin Energy's target markets is, unsurprisingly, China. According to the Jamestown Foundation, "Russia is now trying to lure China's leading petroleum companies to Sakhalin. Rosneft and Sinopec, a subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corporation, recently clinched a deal to launch a joint company for geological exploration of the Veninsky deposit, part of the Sakhalin-3 project". Russia's Sakhalin projects are part of Moscow's plans to expand into Asia-Pacific energy markets and beyond -- into Mexico in fact. President Vladimir Putin told then visiting Mexican President Vicente Fox that "LNG from Sakhalin will be delivered to the Mexican coast and partially used in your country," Putin said. One day cars in California will be fueled by oil pumped from the tundra. But it won't thank God, come from Alaska. It will simply have traveled all the way round the world from Siberia.
From the sands of Saharan Africa to the frozen tundra of the north, from the extreme west to the uttermost east of the Eurasian continent, great events are on the move. And no, not everything is owned by the USA.