By Felicia Graham
LA JOLLA, Calif., May 27 – It’s a well-known, but seldom appreciated fact, that energy drives our lives – not only oil for our cars, but minerals for our technologies, and food for our bodies.
Michael T. Klare’s newest book, The Race For What’s Left confronts this reality head on by taking the reader on a literary escapade to the far-flung corners of the earth where the race for the world’s last energy resources is taking place.
In the north, countries diplomatically vie for Arctic territory to develop the vast offshore oil resources below the icy crust.
Off the coast of Brazil, companies bid for contracts to plunge through 1.5 miles of ocean and 2.5 miles of sediment and salt to develop the newly discovered subsalt oil resources.
Indeed, the forage for energy resources has become a desperate one…
But the race for what’s left does not only pertain to oil and gas. Klare notes that minerals and rare earth elements are also included in the race for what’s left. A host of low-carbon and renewable technologies depend on these components.
Elements such as lithium and dysoprosium are used to make batteries for hybrid cars and superconductors, and are not only difficult to extract, but are sometimes limited to a few countries.
Thus, not only are our conventional resources in danger, but our future resources are in danger as well. This includes access to food.
Klare uniquely juxtaposes the exploration for oil and gas to the massive amounts of African farmland that are being bought by China and Saudi Arabia to feed their own populations, spurring an international race for arable land as well.
These topics complement the discussion posited in Klare’s previous book, Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet which pinpoints the shifting great power alignments of the 21st century. As countries like Russia, China, and India rise to global prominence, every aspect of global geopolitics is altered – including the energy balance.
These countries, as well as the smaller emerging markets of Asia and Latin America, are rapidly increasing their domestic energy demands. This makes The Race for What’s Left even more relevant to our times.
In this regard, the ventures to the Arctic and the depths of the sea that Klare discusses in The Race are direct manifestations of the shifting geopolitics discussed in his previous book.
But what is to be done about our rapidly depleting energy resources? In addition to the geological difficulties of extracting oil from the Arctic or the deep-sea, geopolitical insecurities threaten the freedom of access.
Although The Race fails to offer a comprehensive strategy, the message itself is one of relative optimism and pragmatism. Klare argues that the best remedy to our energy obsession is to alter our consumption patterns altogether.
In other words, we have reached the final stretch in the race for what’s left and must now work to stretch our resources for as long as possible.
Overall, Klare’s book offers a thorough accumulation of the most pressing energy issues of the day. Through illustrative and intriguing examples, The Race provides for an informative and enjoyable read altogether.
Felicia Graham is Managing Editor at Oil Diplomacy.
The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, By Michael T. Clara
© Glamma Productions Inc. 2012