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Commodities - Essay Example

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In his book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power, Daniel Yergin has demonstrated how oil played crucial geo-strategic, social, political and economic roles in the 20th century. …
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Download file to see previous pages The immeasurable significance accorded to oil, in all the forms it occurs, by political empires can be traced to as early as the first decade of the 20th century when governments started showing interest in private oil companies. On behalf of the British government, Winston Churchill proposed a bill to the House of Commons in 1914 that sought to acquire a 51% controlling stake in the Anglo-Persian oil company at a cost of £2.2 million. A hidden motive can be seen in this move because the acquisition agreement further stated that the government would install two directors in the company that would have no hand in commercial activities. Rather, their only role would be to sanction political matters and those relating to Admiralty oil contracts. Fuel oil prices were already rising occasioned by the rising need of an industry that relied on oil-powered propulsion. It was the view of some members of the House of Commons that the cause of the price increase was a new special use found for oil, and not some rings or trusts, which was also contributing to its shortage. From the notion of a new and special use being discussed in the House, one can easily link oil to politics. It was soon established that the “use” was in the form of other countries stocking up on fleets of oil tankers in case of war. From history, we learn that Britain had an abundance of coal at the beginning of the 20th century, but no oil reserves had been discovered within it by that time. It then becomes apparent that the decision to acquire private oil companies was informed by the technological advancements of the Anglo-German maritime prowess. Only oil, and not coal, could provide the edge crucially required in terms of resilience and speed to assist the British maintain the naval supremacy that the Germans were so relentlessly working towards. Here, it can be seen how oil had become a key strategic commodity in national policy. While the Anglo-Persian deal assured the firm a variety of secure markets and capital, it, more significantly, provided a steady oil supply to the British government and guaranteed its survival, albeit only for a foreseeable future. This is further confirmed by Churchill’s revelation that the acquisition’s objective was to keep the navy prepared. A critical examination of that objective brings to light the fact that the precedence of investing oil in national security over a flourishing market was legitimized just before WWI. This is even strengthened by the way advocates of national security within the British government supported the limiting of oil in the market. Moving toward WWII, it is apparent that it was an affair between industrial powers. Therefore, nations that had no oil were greatly disadvantaged. For ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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