The international oil industry has long commanded public, political and academic attention.In recent years it has been seen as the pivotal force propelling the world into a series of interrelated ‘crises’. Oil scarcity was central to the idea of a ‘World energy crisis’, an idea so generally presented and widely accepted that the concept was seldom seriously appraised. The multinational oil companies, which dominated the international oil business until the late 1960s, were viewed as major contributors to the ‘development crisis’ in some Third World nations. It was a commonly accepted scenario that by exploiting the oil resources and transferring abroad much of the resultant economic rent, the companies were depleting the most valuable capital asset of producer states and thus depriving them of their development potential. Thus the 1973/4 ‘oil crisis’, created when the main producing countries — united in OPEC — unilaterally raised prices by a factor of four, was viewed by many as the dawn of a new international economic order. A dawn greeted with enthusiasm by some as being ‘the point when the Third World countries became aware, not of their rights, but of their power’ (Amin, 1979, p.65). However, no cause for celebration was felt by those who saw the same shift in resource power as a threat to the political security and material prosperity of advanced western nations (US National Commission on Materials Policy, 1973; Bergsten, 1974). Following the 1973/4 and 1979/80 oil price rises, the oil sector has since been held responsible for two further ‘crises’, world economic recession and the Third World Debt crisis, which according to some analysts could, in turn, lead to the breakdown of the international financial system, as defaults cause the collapse of major banks.
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