It is little appreciated that large-scale military robbery is by far the most expensive way of acquiring oil. It is not at all like snatching an elderly lady's handbag.
There are other reasons why it seems rather dubious that a rational strategy to secure oil sources is behind the aggression against Libya launched by the USA, France, Britain et al .
Consider the adhocery of the attack and the astounding confusion as to objectives, leadership and other important issues concerning the division of roles among the aggressors.
Personally, I am afraid that there is a very high degree of plain irrationality underlying the decisions that led to the war. After all, irrationality is the order of the day in politics nowadays, spanning all the major issues from environmental to economic interventionism.
Consider Andrew Leonard's take on the matter:
Libya is the 16th largest producer of oil in the world, responsible, before the recent turmoil, for about 2 percent of world production, or around 1,600,000 barrels per day. Yemen and Bahrain are also oil producers -- but far smaller. Bahrain pumps out 45,000 barrels per day; Yemen, 260,000.
Since civil war broke out in Libya, production has fallen by about 75 percent. But the quality of Libya's oil may be more important than the sheer volume of production. Libya's "sweet light crude" oil is extremely low in sulfur content, which makes it highly desirable in global markets: It's cleaner burning and easier to refine into gasoline. Saudi Arabian oil, in contrast, contains much more sulfur. Swap in Saudi oil for missing Libyan oil and you end up maxxing out world refinery capacity, and hiking downstream prices for gasoline.
Rising oil prices are considered a major threat to U.S. economic recovery. So if you're looking for a tidy explanation for Western willingness to intervene in Libya, there you have it. Instability in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain or Yemen has little potential for roiling world energy markets. Libya is a major player -- what happens there can and will affect the global economy.
The fact the European oil companies like Italy's Eni and Spain's Repsol have the biggest foreign presence in Libya also goes a long way toward explaining why the U.N. Security Council agreed to act. But the explanation becomes a little less tidy when you consider that the quickest way to restore order to world oil markets would simply have been to let Gadhafi wipe out the rebels, something he seemed poised to do before the U.N. Security Council vote authorizing a no-fly zone. That would have been hard-headed realpolitik.
The situation we're in now, in which Western military might prevents Gadhafi from a quick victory, but keeps in place the conditions for a long-drawn-out civil war, actually predicts the worst possible outcome for oil markets. The brutal truth about intervention in Libya is that whether or not it was motivated by oil or economic concerns, the prospects for a quick resolution and ensuing calm in oil markets are bleak. That's a lesson we should have learned from Iraq.