By Melvin A. Conant
Conant explores how the transformation of oil from a advertisement commodity to a strategic uncooked fabric have replaced the face of worldwide power politics. In an more and more interdependent international, Conant questions the correct of any state to withold very important offers from different nations.
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This fact has not been lost on Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Venezuela who are uneasy over how the advent of Mexican oil in sizable quantities into the international marketplace could affect their market shares in the United States. If Mexico's production does rise to the most optimistic predicted levels, Mexico will undoubtedly find itself under greater pressure from OPEC to join the organization because of the prospect that most of Mexico's oil might flow to the United States. Such a large flow (conceivably, by the late 1980s, 2 to 3 MMB/D or some 20-25 percent of United States daily import needs) of Mexican oil into the American market would have obvious ramifications, since the United States would have partially diverted the source of its imports away from the Middle East, thus reducing somewhat the potential for conflict with its major European allies and the Japanese over Middle East supply.
Why this has happened requires a brief review of the concession system, how it evolved, and how oil price and production decisions were made during the early years of the international oil industry when much of the oil in world trade was produced from colonies or territories controlled or greatly influenced by Britain, France, and the United States. We are reminded daily how the legacy of this experience still influences current oil discussions and affects our access to vital petroleum supplies now and in the future.
After World War I, the British Empire emerged from the war not only intact but enhanced in scope, particularly in the Middle East where the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the end of German interests in the area led to a significant extension of British in- Concession System / 29 fluence and power, largely through the lands mandated to British control by the League of Nations. British influence over oil was preeminent. In the aftermath of World War I, increased demand and competition within the petroleum industry led to a rivalry among the major industrial countries and their respective companies which had, as one of its results, a renewed American interest in greater access to the oil reserves of the Middle East.