Sunday, November 13, 2011

Oil and Water

A piece by Mark Landler in today's New York Times titled "A New Era of Gunboat Diplomacy" is well worth reading for those interested in the connection between oil and national security.  One-third of global oil production now occurs offshore and some of the hotspots for oil and natural gas exploration are in maritime regions where overlapping claims to jurisdiction have the potential to create problems:  the South China Sea, the Arctic Ocean, and the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Offshore production presents a number of serious environmental risks--one only has to recall the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico--but there can be security benefits from confining production to offshore platforms.  Oil production in the Gulf of Guinea, for example, avoids the serious political and military threats that plague production onshore in Nigeria and Angola.  If, however, the regime governing maritime jurisdiction established by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention is contested or there are serious sovereignty disputes involving islands (as in the South China Sea), then offshore oil exploration and production may generate new security concerns.  If there are resource wars in our future, they may begin at sea.