As nations compete for currency advantages, they are also eyeing the world’s diminishing resources—fossil fuels, minerals, agricultural land, and water. Resource wars have been fought since the dawn of history, but today the competition is entering a new phase.
Nations need increasing amounts of energy and materials to produce economic growth, but—as we have seen—the costs of supplying new increments of energy and materials are increasing. In many cases all that remains are lower-quality resources that have high extraction costs. In some instances, securing access to these resources requires military expenditures as well. Meanwhile the struggle for the control of resources is re-aligning political power balances throughout the world.
The U.S., as the world’s superpower, has the most to lose from a reshuffling of alliances and resource flows. The nation’s leaders continue to play the game of geopolitics by 20th century rules: They are still obsessed with the Carter Doctrine and focused on petroleum as the world’s foremost resource prize (a situation largely necessitated by the country’s continuing overwhelming dependence on oil imports, due in turn to a series of short-sighted political decisions stretching back at least to the 1970s). The ongoing war in Afghanistan exemplifies U.S. inertia: Most experts agree that there is little to be gained from the conflict, but withdrawal of forces is politically unfeasible. More >>>
This article is the part 6 from Chapter 5 of Richard Heinberg's new book 'The End of Growth', which is set for publication by New Society Publishers in August 2011. This chapter 'Shrinking Pie: Competition and Relative Growth in a Finite World' looks in greater depth at the prospects for further development in in an increasingly resource strained environment.
Location: Cayman Islands