Tuesday, July 23, 2002[posted by jaed at 12:11 PM]
"It's all a conspiracy!"
The American Prospect offers an article debunking the theory that Bush attacked Afghanistan (and perhaps even orchestrated the 9/11 attacks) in order to clear the way for the famed Caspian Oil Pipeline. This theory never seemed to me to pass the giggle test - among other things, it smacks just a bit too much of desperation ("No Blood For Oil! Wait a minute - you say Afghanistan doesn't have any oil? Oh... well... um, there must be an oil connection in here somewhere, no matter how tenuous..."). But the background is interesting.
Afghanistan never made much sense as a transit point for energy, and today less than ever. In the mid-1990s, when the Unocal project arose, Turkmenistan was desperate to find new export markets for its gas. Russia, which had traditionally bought almost all Turkmen gas, was in a prolonged post-communist recession, and its purchases had plummeted from 88 billion cubic meters in 1992 to about 15 billion cubic meters in 1996. Furthermore, Moscow was refusing to allow Turkmenistan to use its vast pipeline network to send gas to non-Russian customers -- despite the fact that Pakistan and India faced gas shortages and were eager to buy from Turkmenistan. Hence there was at least a commercial logic to the Unocal proposal.
Today the situation has completely changed. In 2000 the Russian economy emerged from its deep slump, prompting the country to sign a special arrangement with Turkmenistan for gas imports. Since then, Turkmen exports to Russia have climbed steadily and now stand at around 31 billion cubic meters. As part of the deal the Russians have become more generous in allowing Turkmen exporters to utilize their pipeline system.
At the same time, the customers that Unocal had foreseen for Turkmen gas have disappeared. Turkey has lined up sufficient future supplies from Russia and Azerbaijan, while Pakistan has discovered domestic supplies and no longer needs to import gas. That leaves only India, which has cheaper alternatives than buying Turkmen gas that's been shipped across three countries.