Art of starkness

Excerpt from article "Black Gold", The Economist (Oct 2002), republished at Global Policy Forum website: "...Why are Americans suddenly flocking to western Africa?...In September Colin Powell paid a flying visit to Angola and Gabon; early next year George Bush is expected to follow suit. Last month ten African heads of state visited the American president...The reason is oil. Walter Kansteiner, America's assistant secretary of state for Africa, suggests that “African oil has become of national strategic interest to us.” In quiet moments he confides that it is the only American interest in Africa..."

There are strategic reasons why western countries and firms are keen. Dick Cheney's National Energy Policy Report suggests that the region is one of the “fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market”. African oil already provides 15% of American imports; that is likely to rise to 25% by 2015, lessening to a degree dependence on supplies from the troubled Persian Gulf. More African exports would also mean more non-OPEC oil... Investments are not driven by American strategic interests alone. “It is more important that African oil is good quality and companies can get good recovery rates,” says Duncan Clarke, an expert on African oil. Though not as pure and light as Saudi oil, west African crude is easily good enough for refineries on America's east coast. It is also usefully close, half the distance of Persian Gulf supplies..."

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