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Security vs. Sovereignty

OILWATCH Statement at the World Social Forum III
Porto Alegre, Brazil          January 2003

As far as US policy is concerned, "without a substantial increase in energy reserves, the United States could face a threat to its national security and its economic well-being".  Because of this, all the world's oil reserves have  been declared a matter of national security.

The security of the United States threatens the security of the rest of  the world.  It especially threatens the sovereignty of all the countries where there  are oil reserves or from where oil is extracted.

US control of oil and the guaranteeing of access to it was the cause of  the Gulf War in 1991, and is also the cause of an imminent war against Iraq, since the world's most important oil reserves lie in that region.  Access to this resource led to the intervention in Afghanistan, an important gas pipeline  route that connects the Caspian region with Europe.

Similarly, the objective of the war declared in Colombia is the control of oil  production in that country and also improving its presence in the region.  Specifically, to avoid losing control over the crude oil coming primarily from  Venezuela.  Plan Puebla Panama and the "New Horizons" military initiative include the  construction of pipelines directed toward the United States.

US energy demands require 20 million barrels of oil a day.  Its own production  and reserves are completely insufficient to meet this need.  For each 100 barrels consumed  in the  United States, 60 are imported, and in 2020 it is estimated to be 75 barrels per 100.  The  United States consumes half of the world's gasoline, while they comprise only 4% of  the  human population.

Meeting the demand for oil has justified wars, exploration and extraction in all  corners of the world, and over-exploitation of oil fields.  The control of fossil fuels, primary energy source for the industrialized  north, and more recently the control of electricity generation by  transnational companies, allows nations who are high energy consumers the flow of energy to  satisfy their demand.  In order to consolidate this control they use both a military strategy and  an  economic one, as personified by the transnational companies. Third World  countries, subject to external pressures, have been delegated their  functions of control and providers of energy services.  Electric companies, transportation, processes of obtaining energy, are  privatized,  making them hydrocarbon producers as if they were water sources.

Energy has stopped being a social good and has become a commodity where  the objective is economic profitability via control by transnational  companies. While the United States guarantees its security, nation states have lost control of their energy and their reserves, and have therefore lost sovereignty.

Many Third World countries have less and less energy security, because  they are  condemned to extract energy for export and to buy dependency with the foreign  currency earned.  Many Third World countries that have hydrocarbon resources have not even  succeeded in gaining security and access for their own population, thanks  to an  unequal economic model that deprives the majority of the population of the  resources.  They do not control the price of this resource, nor the  process of  extraction, because the majority of the companies that extract it  (including  those that provide services) are transnational companies.


Access to, abuse of or deprivation of energy determine the quality of life of social  groups.  Access to energy, water and air constitute fundamental human  rights, which should be guaranteed for all the planet's inhabitants. These are  services, not commodities.  Citizens are users of these services, not  clients  of the companies.

Energy is indispensable in human life and society, and can allow contributions to improve the quality of life of people.  Constructing  and consolidating from the ground up, proposals related to energy can allow  for energy sovereignty.  Preventing the continuation of the flow of energy from the south to the  north  confronts the model based on domination.

In many of the areas where oil is extracted people live who suffer from  the destruction of their lands and their resources as a result of this activity.  Oil extraction causes the destruction of the bases of sustenance of their  cultures. The conservation of nature allows and has allowed the development of lasting productive models.

Proposals such as the moratorium on petroleum expansion are fundamental criticisms of  this model and aim to prevent the environmental and economic destruction of these countries.

Impeding the flow of energy from the south to the north continues to confront this model based on domination.


Energy sovereignty is a new concept dealing with the control of our energy sources, the decision how to develop them, distribute them and assure the democratic and decentralized access to them.

An essential condition for energy sovereignty to work is that energy sources become decentralized, clean, renewable, diversified and adapted to the place of origin and local needs.  An energy source cannot mean the destruction of the source of life for people living there.  The sustainability of the resource must be assured as well as environmental conservation.  Technology control must also be present since by any other way a system of dependence is imposed.

We need to break the vicious cycle of dependence on oil which forces us extract it to export it, export it to pay for it, and become indebted to export it.

We insist on a policy of energy sovereignty, demanding our governments to define an energy platform that is democratic and sustainable; that ends our dependence on oil and gas; that ends the dependence on transnational companies and that ends our dependence on imported technologies.

Energy sovereignty is already practiced by indigenous and local communities around the world who maintain their traditional productive practices.  They protect the environment and keep the oil industry from expanding into new ecosystems.  These communities must be defended and maintained.

Energy sovereignty can be built, developing local and community strategies of energy production and consumption that permits us to be autonomous, breaking dependency and conserving our natural resources.

The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis (Lao Hamutuk)
Institutu Timor-Leste ba Analiza no Monitor ba Dezenvolvimentu
Rua D. Alberto Ricardo, Bebora, Dili, Timor-Leste
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste
Tel: +670-3321040 or +670-77234330
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