IR 344: International Politics of Oil

This is a course about how oil influences both domestic and international politics. At the time of writing this syllabus, the price of oil was hovering around $90 a barrel. It has set a record of more than $147 a barrel in the summer of 2008. Energy experts expect that the current price my go up to $100 this year.

No country in the world can remain unaffected by the rise and decline in oil prices. In the recent past, there have been periods of panic because people thought that oil was becoming not only expensive but also scarce. There have also been periods of relative low and stable oil prices. Some countries are affected because oil represents their primary source of energy and have to import every single drop of it. Others are major producers and hence, one may think, have few worries. This is clearly not the.cas2., oil-rich Iran went through a revolution and oil-rich Algeria is in the process of emerging from a civil war. With some producers, almost every cent of governmental revenue comes from oil exports. In the most dramatic event of the last decade, the United States and its allies made war on one of the world’s most important producers of oil, Iraq. A decade later, in 2003 the US was back at war targeting the regime that ran Iraq. While oil was not the primary reason for either war, it did play an important role. The war ironically may be one of the main reasons why oil prices have climbed as much as they have.

While consumers of oil are distributed all over the globe, so are the producers. Oil is not only produced in the Middle East but also in Latin America, Central Asia, Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa. Even the waters near the Antarctic are said to contain deposits of oil. So a course on the politics of oil is really a course on the whole world viewed by a different vantage point. In this course, we will learn not only about the economics of oil, that is the reasons why prices go up or down, but also the production, distribution, and ultimately its consumption. Oil affects not only the international political and physical environment but also the domestic political structures of societies.