نفت در اختلاف نظر: کمبود، بازارها، و مالی گرایی انباشت
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|22987||2010||10 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||12340 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Geoforum, Volume 41, Issue 4, July 2010, Pages 541–552
Relations between oil scarcity, production, investment, and price have become increasingly mediated and shaped by financial markets. Yet, the mediation of finance is absent in peak oil narratives, which posit a direct relation between the availability of oil in the ground and its price on the market. The orthodox critique of peak oil deconstructs its basis in geological limits only to reproduce the argument from scarcity and reverse the relationship between the price of oil and its availability on the market. Both narratives are formulated in physical space and do not account for the degree to which the oil market has become infused by the logic of finance. Critical political economy, on the other hand, demonstrates the extent to which finance has transformed capital accumulation, only to render material production somewhat irrelevant to the accumulation of capital. This is equally problematic, given oil companies’ continuing investment in production and reserve expansion. The relation between accumulation, investment, and production under finance needs to be examined rather than discarded. I argue that finance has emancipated the circulation of oil in the world market from its circulation in physical space, fragmenting the oil market into a physical and a financial component, but reintegrating both under the dominance of financial logic without transcending their duality and their differences. I explicate this relation by examining the circulation of oil in trade and investment under the dictates of finance to open questions on current theorizations of oil scarcity in relation to prices, markets, and investment.
On 14 May 2008, 518,053 Brent Crude futures contracts exchanged hands on the IntercontinentalExchnage (ICE), an equivalent of approximately 518 million barrels of oil.1 May 2008 marked the peak of an oil boom, culminating in record high prices of $147 per barrel (bbl) at the beginning of July. Goldman Sachs, the largest commodity trader on Wall Street, predicted an average oil price of $141/bbl for the second half of 2008 and a price of $200/bbl by the end of the year. The rise of oil price signaled to some analysts a looming crisis. Unlike the crises of the 1970s, this one promised to be long-lasting since it was reasoned to be largely the result of substantial depletion of major oilfields. Oil was ‘past its peak’, declared one commentator; about half the oil reserves deposited in the ground are gone and oil production will soon enter an ‘irreversible decline’ (Klare, 2008). Oil production did indeed decline, from a peak of 86.6 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in July to around 83.8 million bbl/d in March 2009, but this was due to an equivalent decline in global demand. In fact, world proven oil reserves continued to grow, adding more than 25 billion barrels between the end of 2007 and the middle of 2009. By the end of 2008, oil was trading at a spot price of around $30/bbl (23 December), before it started rising again soon after despite continued decline in global demand. Clearly, the price of oil was moving independently from its physical availability on the market or in the ground. There was something fundamentally different between the 500 million barrels traded daily on the ICE and the 85 million barrels circulating in the physical space of reservoirs, production platforms, pipelines, tankers, loading docks, and refineries, before they were finally burnt in one way or another. Since the introduction of oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) in 1983, oil has come to circulate simultaneously through international exchange markets centered on Wall Street, London, Singapore and Tokyo as much as through the vast physical infrastructure that covers the globe. Yet, this significant aspect of the oil market is conspicuously absent from peak oil theses and their derivatives such as ‘resource wars’ narratives (See Klare, 2001, Klare, 2004, Peters, 2004, Heinberg, 2006, Renner, 2006, Elhefnawy, 2008 and Bardi, 2009.) This lack is reproduced to a lesser extent in the critique of peak oil by orthodox energy economists, particularly in the (immediate and linear) relation construed between oil price and investment in production and reserve expansion. The fact of scarcity from this standpoint is immaterial: both ‘peakists’ and their detractors agree about an imminent scarcity of oil, although they explain it differently and draw different implications from its potential causes. The difference between peakists and the orthodox critics resides in how they mobilize scarcity in constructing arguments about markets, oil price, and the movement of oil capital. For peakists, scarcity of oil in nature is the cause of imminent decline in production expressed in rising and more volatile market prices, leading ultimately to the end of the free market as oil consumers resort to mercantilist and potentially military and other non-market means to secure the last economically and geologically extractable oil. For the detractors, the same elements are rearranged differently to produce an argument with different implications: scarcity is the result of erosion of market practices (through nationalization of the oil industry and state-to-state deals) and low market prices, which led to decline in investment in the upstream sector and the contraction of production capacity. The recent surge in oil price is accordingly the effect of a lag in production capacity behind surging market demand—scarcity of oil in the market—which can be remedied by the removal of barriers to capital expansion as long as prices remain high (and volatility low) enough to induce investment.2 Both arguments are deeply flawed because they omit the effect of the financialization of oil trade and investment on the production and circulation of oil. I propose a third argument that severs the direct causal relation between price, investment and the physical supply of oil. I argue that the availability of physical supplies has no direct bearing on the price of oil and that a high market price does not automatically induce investment in exploration and production capacity. The relations between price, investment and production have been transformed by the financialization of trade and investment in oil: more oil is traded in financial markets than in spot markets, while major oil companies have increasingly turned towards financial markets for shorter term returns on their investments. This is not to argue that trade and investment in production have ceased, but that those have acquired a different form under the dictates of finance. Financialization liberated the circulation (i.e. expansion) of value from material production and exchange at the same time that it brought the production of value and its realization in exchange under the dominance of financial logic. Rather than eliminating the necessity of producing and realizing value in material production and exchange, financialization brought to the fore the antinomy that Marx recognized between the conditions for the production of value and the conditions for its realization in exchange. For Marx, the exchange of commodities creates no value, but value can only be realized in exchange. This is what Karatani (2003), reading Kant and Marx, calls a ‘pronounced parallax’, the objectivity that is exposed through the displacement or incessant transposition between multiple representations of an object. Value on this reading is relational, not substantial; value, produced in the labor process, comes to existence in the relation among commodities in exchange. Value, therefore, has its origin both in circulation and not in circulation (see also Žižek, 2004a). The realization of value is accomplished in the salto mortale (leap of faith) of the commodity, when the commodity is sold, thus completing the circulation process M-C-M′. Credit, obtained on capital and stock exchange markets, presupposes the realization of value before exchange (or even production) takes place, although there is no guarantee that the exchange will happen and that, if it happens, it will realize profit. This is what Žižek, drawing on Karatani, refers to as ‘temporal parallax’: the actualization, at different levels, of events and processes that ‘cannot occur at the same historical moment’ ( Žižek, 2006: 32; see also Žižek, 2004b).
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Extraction of oil, as with any material resource, is always simultaneously the extraction of use-values from the earth and the extraction of (surplus) value from the labor process. The problem for the capitalist is that surplus value is appropriated as profit only after it is realized in the market, when and where commodities confront each other and bring their value into existence. The relationship between labor and capital is concealed in exchange; capital, as bearer of commodities (or claims to commodities), appears to produce profit in its relation with other capitals. If the circulation process M-C-M′ conceals the relation between capital and labor, however, the circulation of money capital, M-M’-M″… conceals further the circulation of commodities and the necessary realization of value in material exchange. In financial markets, commodities confront each other as claims to future value, thereby bringing value into existence before it is produced in the labor process and realized in exchange. Profit appears as interest, dividends, and settlement prices for futures, options and swaps; the expansion of capital appears to derive from the incessant flow of money in various forms, pure moneymaking independent of the production process. Circulation in financial markets, however, does not only occur in a space–time independent of the space–time of production and exchange, where circulation of value can precede its production in the labor process and realization in the market. Precisely because of this spatio-temporal independence, circulation in financial markets has transformed the production process and to a large extent brought it under its dominance. Finance allows investment in the future production of commodities as if those commodities have been already sold at a profit in the present, although there is no guarantee that those commodities will be sold at a profit or sold at all. With the expansion of finance, the accumulation of claims to future value surpasses the material production and realization of value. Accumulation of debt (stock, sovereign bonds, etc.) appears as accumulation of capital. Indeed, the accumulation of capital is driven by the accumulation of debt, in ‘the desperate need to infinitely postpone the final settlement’, the ‘critical moment’ when the commodity has to bring its value into existence (Karatani, 2003, p. 219). When the commodities that were supposed to be sold have not been sold (at the anticipated profit), when the debt cannot be paid and the credit extended cannot be recovered, ‘the moment of settlement comes as a surprise attack’ (Karatani, 2003, p. 155) and the ‘stage is set for crises within the credit system’ (Harvey, 1999, p. 266). Financialization, and its attendant crises, are too important to be restricted to the geographies of money and financial industries. Financialization has permeated and transformed the nature of the production process—at the most fundamental level, the production of nature. The encroachment of the disciplining logic of finance over the extractive industry requires rethinking notions of resource shortages and crises. As Bridge (2009, p. 1238) argues, financial flows displaced resource flows from center stage of public concern after resurgent specters of scarcity following the hike in primary commodity prices in 2008 were overshadowed by the onset of the financial crisis. This displacement, however, obscures an increasing amalgamation of resource flows and financial flows. In a fundamental sense, resource crises have become financial crises. As much as it is important to think economies as ‘metabolic engines transforming materials’, as Bridge argues, it is important to recognize how much this metabolic circulation has been permeated and shaped by the logic of finance, giving resource crises novel meaning, or form. Financial logic has located the origin of crises of resource flows more deeply in financial flows. Crises result less from market shortages or scarcity in nature than from dislocations between futures and physical markets, decline in shareholder value and shortages of credit, inability of corporations to meet analysts’ forecasts, and so on. Crises occur when the resource commodity fails to make the salto mortale and bring its value into existence—value already appropriated in the market according to traders’ stochastic models predicting price fluctuation, but now finds no material basis in reality. Traders dispose of their claims to commodities and prices plummet, leading to decline in corporate profits—not from sales at lower prices than anticipated, but from the effect of market perception about the future profitability and share price. The current oil crisis is certainly different from the oil crises of the 1970s, but not in that it resulted from the depletion of reserves or supply crunches in a tight market. Far from it. The oil crisis arrived as a financial crisis, driven by the hyperactivity of traders on Wall Street more than lack of activity in the upstream and downstream sectors. The burst of the oil bubble in summer 2008, which sent the oil price tumbling from around $150/bbl to $30/bbl by the end of the year, has been recently translated into a decline in oil companies’ historic profits by approximately 70 percent between the third quarters of 2008 and 2009, despite subsequent recovery of prices since the end of 2008. 37 As profits derive more from price rather than volume of sale, pressure of shareholder value on profitability in the absence of high prices translates into ‘cost cutting’: paring operating and investment costs and slashing jobs. Shell, whose profits declined 62 percent between the third quarters of 2008 and 2009, was the first among major oil companies to announce a cut of around 5000 jobs this year, with potentially more to come in 2010; Shell will also force 15,000 employees ‘to apply to keep their jobs’. 38 Shareholders, however, will still receive a dividend of 42 cents on the share for this quarter. Other oil majors have already been engaged in cutting costs and will probably slash jobs as they indulge in their ‘organizational revamp’. 39 As managers become disciplined by the compulsive twin-need to postpone the critical moment of value realization and to expand shareholder value, another form of severe discipline becomes necessary, expressed in euphemisms such as cost cutting. As the extraction of value from the market becomes more difficult and the extraction of resources becomes less profitable, the necessity of extracting more value in the labor process becomes ever more intense and the squandering of human material appears as disciplined prudence in the employment of capital.