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Peak Oil and the political economy of terrorism

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By Mathew Maavak

Crude oil has breached the $70 psychological barrier again. This time, however, it will not be a one-day seduction by the stormy Katrina.

The causative culprits are aplenty.

Terrorist have taken out 25 per cent of Nigeria's sweet crude since late February and the daily joust between Washington and Tehran is providing splendid returns to those who had invested in oil stocks. For these savvy investors, there will be enough gas in the tank during the peak summer driving season.

Than there is that 10.2 per cent growth registered by China, announced very conveniently before President Hu Jintao's scheduled meeting with his US counterpart George W. Bush. China's booming growth can only be greased by a harder-to-pump oil. The alternatives are stark. If the Chinese bubble gets pricked, the global economy suffers, US corporations may need higher tax cuts - or even subsidies - and Americans will finally need to trim their bellies.

That would be Hu's sales pitch but Bush may opt for a more risky oil prospecting venture. This time, the failed former Texan oilman may succeed, and ignite enough fires in an energy-strained world.

It is high noon for those prospecting for maximum oil returns. Even the types not usually associated with Wall Street, rocket science and deficit spending are glued to Bloomberg's running crude oil tickers by the minute.

The objective is the lucky strike. Peak Oil is forming a strategic fit with Peak Terrorism.

For a synoptic glimpse into the future, read this excerpt from New York Times' April 16 article headlined "Blood and Oil":

Just as things seemed to be calming down in the delta region of Nigeria after a spate of kidnappings and insurgent attacks, the militant group calling itself the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta -- MEND -- announced last week to all who would listen that it was planning new violence against oil facilities in the region. Apparently unconcerned about tipping its hand to the authorities, MEND even gave a date for the start of its new campaign: April 25.

That date is perfect! These guys are more financially savvy than stuffed suits who have hedged their future in a world where oil never existed. D-Day in the Niger Delta is just 72-odd hours before the UN Security Council meets to unleash a little fission over Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

Crude oil at $80 per barrel on April 28? Who knows?

If a rag-tag bunch of militants in Nigeria are accurately reading the tea leaves in an oil-brimmed cup, imagine what Al Qaeda and the pan-global martyrs of terror have in store?

There is a greater lead-filled premium now for oil-related and economic targets. In a business-speak twist, collateral damage can be applied to the unlucky rejects in a fire sale transaction.

You can bet your every last dime that terrorists are ready to throw their explosive spanners into the machineries of global trade. They know the drill. There is tremendous potential here to cause pandemonium and cross-border tensions. Targeting energy infrastructures will be far more efficacious and less opprobrious than the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians.

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Mathew Maavak is a journalist based in Malaysia. Contact him at mathew@maavak.net
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