03 July, 2008

Rebels and the price of oil

John Robb, author of the Global Guerrillas blog and Brave New War, has been pointing to the Nigerian delta as a example of what can go wrong when a small, dedicated network takes on the vulnerabilities of the system of global oil production and transport. Now they are threatening the tankers, too. Threatening to disrupt supplies will have an effect on prices, of course. Beyond "speculation" (whatever that means in this context) the ability to disrupt supplies means any reasonable person has to add an insurance factor to cover possible losses. Even by existing, and making a credible threat, a terror group can shift the balance of supply and demand.

Moreover, they know it. Therefore, one indicator of a forthcoming act (an attack or a credible threat) may be that some local groups purchase oil futures, secure in their knowledge that they can drive the price up. It wouldn't be easy to find these signals, but I hope someone is looking for them. Even though it's not a new idea--protection rackets, anyone?--I hate the idea that some people are using terror to finance terror. One of the few good things about conventional war in the modern world is it is almost impossible to make a profit from fighting one. (Arms suppliers can profit, but the the purchasers seldom do.) But terror for megaprofit is a real possibility.

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