Content varies from quarter to quarter.
Civilization as we know it would be impossible without oil. Not only does this one resource provide fuels for every conceivable mode of transport, civilian and military, it is the origin for an infinite universe of fundamental goods, from computers and clothes to fertilizer and medicine. Petroleum is the most highly traded commodity on Earth and the most politicized. Over 130 nations now import their oil, a vast web of vulnerability. No modern military can exist without it; a shrinking number of nations possess it. The “haves” are largely in unstable regions, the “have nots” in advanced and emergent economies. Indeed, oil’s bounty completely inverts the modern “order of nations,” giving former colonies resource dominance over former colonizers. Advanced nations, meanwhile, have built societies of unprecedented wealth and freedom on the back of a commodity that now comes from often troubled, repressive regimes—regimes who view their oil not merely as an origin of wealth, but a foundation of their very sovereignty. For these reasons and more, understanding the contemporary world requires a familiarity with the global petroleum system and its geopolitics. This course will take up:
--nature of petroleum and distribution of reserves --the global oil industry, its history, development, and economics --centers of global demand (past, present, future) and of global supply --patterns of conflict and cooperation in oil geopolitics --OPEC, Russia and resource nationalism --case studies: East Asia and the Persian Gulf; U.S. and Saudi Arabia; China, Europe and Central Asia --petroleum and climate change --alternatives to oil: how might the system evolve? Controversial topics to be examined:
--oil and the resource curse --concepts of energy security --Peak oil: fact or urban legend? --“Resource Wars”: a real threat? --the “oil weapon” and U.S. foreign policy: should America be in the Middle East?
Student learning goals
Students will know the history and politics of the global oil industry and its role in the making of the 20th and 21st centuries. They will understand that globalization of this industry today is part of globalization generally.
Students will understand the basics of petroleum exploration, drilling, production, the global transport system, what products come from crude oil, and their role in contemporary society.
Students will learn the meaning of reserves and basic petroleum economics; this will include where such reserves exist, how they are determined, and debates over their abundance (Peak Oil vs. Non-Peak Oil positions).
Students will learn about the role of politics in the global oil system, why such politicization exists, the relative positions of importers vs. exporters, the ideas of the "oil weapon" and the "oil curse."
Students will learn about the history, structure, and nature of OPEC and its economic and political status in
General method of instruction
Some familiarity with economic concepts. Recommended (but not required): either JSIS 200 (States and Capitalism) or JSIS 201 (Making of the 21st Century)
Class assignments and grading
Short papers, quizzes, weekly postings on required readings, class projects, final research paper/presentation.
We will be using three main texts, with supplementary readings from online information sources. Our texts are: The Prize, by Daniel Yergin; Oil 101, by Morgan Downey, and Powers that Be, by Scott L. Montgomery. These have been ordered and should become available through the Ubookstore.
Short papers - 20%; Quizzes – 15%; weekly postings – 20%; class projects – 15%; final research paper/presentation – 30%.