Terrorists Control World’s Oil Supply

John Robb crunches the numbers and discovers that terrorists and other criminal non-state actors have more than twice the control over the world’s oil supplies as the Saudis.

The control over the price of oil is in now in the hands of global guerrillas — the open source, system disrupting, transnational crime fueled, sons of global fragmentation covered by this author. These actors can now, at will, curtail the supply of oil through low tech attacks on facilities in Iraq, Nigeria, central Asia, and India. The amount of oil effectively under their control exceeds five million barrels a day, more than Saudi Arabia’s two million barrels a day of swing production.

The believes that, as a consequence of this and other factors, “$100+ a barrel oil is not unforeseeable.” And, if that isn’t enough to scare you, he argues persuasively that there’s precious little that we can do about any of this.

Update: If it makes you feel any better, the Iranian mullahs control 10 percent of the world’s oil supply.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Terrorism, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jonk says:

    We do have control over this…we need to shift away from Oil to other forms of energy. I don’t mean the half-@$$ed investments we have been making, I mean real investment in “alternative” energies.

    Want to really “beat” the Middle East and OBL…find a way to stop using their oil.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Jonk: Easier said than done but yes.

  3. Anderson says:

    My only question is, if they can do it, why haven’t they?

    Saudi millionaires are donating enough oil money to terror groups that I would think the terrorists would hesitate to blow the infrastructure there.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Anderson: Unlike OPEC, these groups aren’t acting in concert. Still, acting independently, they have contributed to the rise in world oil prices. To give the most obvious example, the guerillas in Iraq have certainly disrupted production in a major producing nation, thus diminishing the world supply and harming the domestic economy.

  5. Steven Plunk says:

    Keep in mind alternative sources are more expensive, in many cases even more expensive than $100 a barrel oil.

    Many alternatives such as nuclear power and wind power have been derided by environmental groups. It seems if it’s not one thing it’s another.

    In the northwest even hydropower is being phased out over environmental concerns.

    No one seems to be serious about the problem.

  6. legion says:

    Basically, there’s still plenty of money to be made under the status quo, hence the mullahs don’t want the global oil supply ‘boat’ to be rocked. When the price vs. pain-in-the-ass ratio starts to tip the other way, look for things to change _rapidly_ in the middle east…

  7. anjin-san says:

    Why not stop buying gas sucking SUV’s? Guess thats too much of a sacrafice for Americans today…

  8. legion says:

    Wow. “Eco-freaks” – the guys who keep touting alternative power sources – are actually the ones _keeping_ us stuck to OPEC’s jock.

    You blow my mind, t-bird.

  9. floyd says:

    chicagoland area is supplied with fuels made from canadian sour crude and some shale derivitives well under $20 a barrel.we get almost nothing from the gulf coast yet before katrina’s wind could subside, the oil companies started passing wind very loudly about shortages and raised prices as much as a dollar per gallon. i’m sure you’ve heard that the gulf lost 3-5 platforms in the storm but did they tell you it was out of approx.3000 of them?

  10. Herb says:

    Who is this guy, John Robb, and what makes him an expert on the world’s control of oil.

    Who does he work for and who provides him with funds?

    One thing we all see are all kinds of “Experts” on every subject imaginable. I see them on the puter and on TV. Most of the time they know about as much as the ordinary citizen does and that’s not much.

    I am so sick of these experts and the garbage they put out and expect us to believe.

  11. DL says:

    Mullahs control 10% but don’t forget our commie friend Chavez in Venezuala controls a lot too.
    It became science fiction that both our parties have prevented ANWR drilling to date because of fifty years of leftist eco-propaganda providing
    the impetus. Thank you Captian planet -Ranger Rick -and thousands of elementary school texts that have converted a conservation mindset(wise use) into a preservation religion.(No use)

    OUr eco-worship of the environment make as much sense as 72 virgins do to a suicide bomber – both are totally destructive of man.

  12. LJD says:

    ‘Why not stop buying gas sucking SUV’s? Guess thats too much of a sacrafice for Americans today…’

    What an idiotic comment. Yes, dress up like a ninja and go burn down some car dealerships. That should solve the problem.

    So explain to me how some one driving a 15 MPG SUV less than 1000 miles per month compares with some one in their 45 MPG death-trap hybird driving 3000 miles per month?

    I’d say there’s as much case for limiting the amount of miles Californians are allowed to drive. It wouldn’t even take any new technological advances.

  13. Movie Guy says:


    There is nothing new in what John was describing. This pattern has existed for over 60 years, with noticeable effect during various periods.

    The difference today has more to do with the narrowing of the gap between field production and near term demand requirements. The actual presence and number of attacks globally have not changed significantly, including various spikes.

    The historical evidence speaks for itself.

    There is no question that we will once again experience a spike in such guerilla activities, but it is not unexpected by the majors and key Western nation states.

    I have suggested that John develop a brief that outlines the chronology of official China visits to oil producing nation states. Thus far, my information indicates that we can expect near term guerilla disruptions and new/renewed nation state resistance to Western clients at many geographic locations that closely track China visits. The frequency of China representatives visits to nation states possessing crude oil and other commodities is unprecedented in recent history…by any other nation states.

    Offshore platforms have helped ease the guerilla activity problem. But as those fields play out on an increasing basis, new land fields in remote and ‘poor’ third world locations stimulate local resistance directly and indirectly.

    There are indications that linkage between guerilla disruption events can be projected, even across various continents. I picked out my candidates two years ago. One is hitting like clockwork.

    Perform extensive research and track official and corporate China visits. Draw your own conclusions.

    Movie Guy
    War Damn Eagle

    Glad your team won its bowl game. AU’s performance was disgraceful.

  14. James Joyner says:

    Movie Guy: Good point on the historical background. It does seem that the power of the guerrillas, cumulatively, is more than in the past.

    Thanks on Bama. Not sure what happened to Auburn. The long layoff between the regular season and the bowls creates some really weird results. And it being Barry Alvarez’ last game probably pumped Wisconsin up tremendously.

  15. Movie Guy says:

    Tubberville is inconsistent. He is 4-3 overall in bowl games. 3-3 at AU.