Summary Although completely suppressed by the U.S. media and government, the answer to the Iraq enigma is simple yet shocking -- it is an oil currency war. The real reason for this upcoming war is this administration's goal of preventing further Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) momentum towards the euro as an oil transaction currency standard. However, in order to pre-empt OPEC, they need to gain geo-strategic control of Iraq along with its 2nd largest proven oil reserves. This essay will discuss the macroeconomics of the `petro-dollar' and the unpublicized but real threat to U.S. economic hegemony from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency. The author advocates reform of the global monetary system including a dollar/euro currency 'trading band' with reserve status parity, and a dual OPEC oil transaction standard. These reforms could potentially reduce future oil currency warfare.
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be . . . The People cannot be safe without information. When the press is free, and every man is able to read, all is safe."
Those words by Thomas Jefferson embody the unfortunate state of affairs that have beset our nation. As our government prepares to go to war with Iraq, our country seems unable to answer even the most basic questions about this war. First, why is there virtually no international support to topple Saddam? If Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program truly possessed the threat level that President Bush has repeatedly purported, why is there no international coalition to militarily disarm Saddam? Secondly, despite over 300 unfettered U.N inspections to date, there has been no evidence reported of a reconstituted Iraqi WMD program. Third, and despite Bush's rhetoric, the CIA has not found any links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. To the contrary, some analysts believe it is far more likely Al Qaeda might acquire an unsecured former Soviet Union Weapon(s) of Mass Destruction, or potentially from sympathizers within a destabilized Pakistan.
Moreover, immediately following Congress's vote on the Iraq Resolution, we suddenly became aware of North Korea's nuclear program violations. Kim Jong Il is processing uranium in order to produce nuclear weapons this year. President Bush has not provided a rationale answer as to why Saddam's seemingly dormant WMD program possesses a more imminent threat that North Korea's active program. Strangely, Donald Rumsfeld suggested that if Saddam were `exiled' we could avoid an Iraq war. Confused yet? Well, I'm going to give their game away -- the core driver for toppling Saddam is actually the euro currency.
Although completely suppressed in the U.S. media, the answer to the Iraq enigma is simple yet shocking. The upcoming war in Iraq war is mostly about how the ruling class at Langley and the Bush oligarchy view hydrocarbons at the geo-strategic level, and the overarching macroeconomic threats to the U.S. dollar from the euro. The Real Reason for this upcoming war is this administration's goal of preventing further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an oil transaction currency standard. However, in order to pre-empt OPEC, they need to gain geo-strategic control of Iraq along with its 2nd largest proven oil reserves.
This lengthy essay will discuss the macroeconomics of the `petro-dollar' and the unpublicized but real threat to U.S. economic hegemony from the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency. The following is how an astute and anonymous former-government employee/macroeconomist alluded to the unspoken truth about this upcoming war with Iraq:
"The Federal Reserve's greatest nightmare is that OPEC will switch its international transactions from a dollar standard to a euro standard. Iraq actually made this switch in Nov. 2000 (when the euro was worth around 82 cents), and has actually made off like a bandit considering the dollar's steady depreciation against the euro. (Note: the dollar declined 17% against the euro in 2002.)
"The real reason the Bush administration wants a puppet government in Iraq -- or more importantly, the reason why the corporate-military-industrial network conglomerate wants a puppet government in Iraq -- is so that it will revert back to a dollar standard and stay that way." (While also hoping to veto any wider OPEC momentum towards the euro, especially from Iran -- the 2nd largest OPEC producer who is actively discussing a switch to euros for its oil exports)."
Furthermore, despite Saudi Arabia being a US `client state,' the Saudi regime appears increasingly weak and threatened by massive civil unrest. Some analysts believe a `Saudi Revolution' might be plausible in the aftermath of an unpopular U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq (ie. Iran circa 1979) . Undoubtedly, the Bush administration is acutely aware of these risks. Hence, the neo-conservative framework entails a large and permanent military presence in the Persian Gulf region in a post-Saddam era, just in case the US needs to surround and control Saudi's Ghawar oil fields in the event of a coup by an anti-western group. But first back to Iraq.
"Saddam sealed his fate when he decided to switch to the euro in late 2000 (and later converted his $10 billion reserve fund at the U.N. to euros) -- at that point, another manufactured Gulf War became inevitable under Bush II. Only the most extreme circumstances could possibly stop that now and I strongly doubt anything can -- short of Saddam getting replaced with a pliant regime.
"Big Picture Perspective: Everything else aside from the reserve currency and the Saudi-Iran oil issues (i.e. domestic political issues and international criticism) is peripheral and of marginal consequence to this administration. Further, the dollar-euro threat is powerful enough that they would rather risk much of the economic backlash in the short-term to stave off the long-term dollar crash of an OPEC transaction standard change from dollars to euros. All of this fits into the broader Great Game that encompasses Russia, India, China."
This information about Iraq's oil currency is being censored by the U.S. media and the Bush administration as the truth could potentially curtail both investor and consumer confidence, reduce consumer borrowing/spending, create political pressure to form a new energy policy that slowly weans us off Middle-Eastern oil, and of course stop their march towards a war with Iraq. This quasi `state secret' can be found on a Radio Free Europe article discussing Saddam's switch for his oil sales from dollars to the euros effective November 6, 2000:
"Baghdad's switch from the dollar to the euro for oil trading is intended to rebuke Washington's hard-line on sanctions and encourage Europeans to challenge it. But the political message will cost Iraq millions in lost revenue. RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel looks at what Baghdad will gain and lose, and the impact of the decision to go with the European currency." 
At the time of the switch many analysts were surprised that Saddam was willing to give up millions in oil revenue for what appeared to be a political statement. However, contrary to one of the main points of this November 2000 article, the steady depreciation of the dollar versus the euro since late 2001 means that Iraq has profited handsomely from the switch in their reserve and transaction currencies. Surprisingly, the (UK) Observer recently illustrated this fact:
"A bizarre political statement by Saddam Hussein has earned Iraq a windfall of hundreds of millions of euros. In October 2000 Iraq insisted upon dumping the US Dollar -- `the currency of the enemy' -- for the more multilateral euro. 
Although Saddam's oil currency switch is astoundingly censored by the U.S. mass media, the Observer article illustrates the euro has gained roughly 25% against the dollar since late 2001, which also applies to the $10 billion in Iraq's U.N. `oil for food' reserve fund that was previously held in dollars and which has gained that same percent value since the switch. What would happen if OPEC made a sudden (collective) switch to euros, as opposed to a gradual transition?
"Otherwise, the effect of an OPEC switch to the euro would be that oil-consuming nations would have to flush dollars out of their (central bank) reserve funds and replace these with euros. The dollar would crash anywhere from 20-40% in value and the consequences would be those one could expect from any currency collapse and massive inflation (the Argentina currency crisis, for example). You'd have foreign funds stream out of the U.S. stock markets and dollar denominated assets, there'd surely be a run on the banks much like the 1930s, the current account deficit would become unserviceable, the budget deficit would go into default, and so on. Your basic 3rd world economic crisis scenario.
"The United States economy is intimately tied to the dollar's role as reserve currency. This doesn't mean that the U.S. couldn't function otherwise, but that the transition would have to be gradual to avoid such dislocations and the ultimate result of this would probably be the U.S. and the E.U. switching roles in the global economy."
Although the above scenario is unlikely, and most assuredly undesirable, under certain economic conditions it is plausible. In fact, one of the conditions that could create such an environment is a near unilateral U.S. led war in the Middle East. For example, a large spike in oil prices could create huge problems for the imperiled Japanese banking system, the world's largest holder of U.S. dollar reserves. Many economists deem that the G-8 industrialized nations should meet and reform the global monetary system. Unfortunately the current Bush administration has chosen a military option instead of a multilateral conference on monetary reform.
In the aftermath of toppling Saddam it is clear the U.S. will keep a large and permanent military force in the Persian Gulf. Indeed, there is no `exit strategy' in Iraq, as the military will be needed to protect the newly installed regime, and to send a message to other OPEC producers that they might receive `regime change' if they convert their oil exports to the euro currency.
An interesting yet again underreported story from this summer related to another OPEC `Axis of Evil' country, Iran, who is vacillating on the euro issue.
"Iran's proposal to receive payments for crude oil sales to Europe in euros instead of U.S. dollars is based primarily on economics, Iranian and industry sources said.
"But politics are still likely to be a factor in any decision, they said, as Iran uses the opportunity to hit back at the U.S. government, which recently labeled it part of an `axis of evil.`
"The proposal, which is now being reviewed by the Central Bank of Iran, is likely to be approved if presented to the country's parliament, a parliamentary representative said.
"`There is a very good chance MPs will agree to this idea . . . now that the euro is stronger, it is more logical,' the parliamentary representative said." 
Moreover, and perhaps most telling, during 2002 the majority of reserve funds in Iran's central bank have been shifted to euros. It appears imminent that Iran intends to switch to euros for their oil currency.
"More than half of the country's assets in the Forex Reserve Fund have been converted to euro, a member of the Parliament Development Commission, Mohammad Abasspour announced. He noted that higher parity rate of euro against the US dollar will give the Asian countries, particularly oil exporters, a chance to usher in a new chapter in ties with European Union's member countries.
"He said that the United States dominates other countries through its currency, noting that given the superiority of the dollar against other hard currencies, the US monopolizes global trade. The lawmaker expressed hope that the competition between euro and dollar would eliminate the monopoly in global trade." 
After toppling Saddam, this administration may decide that Iran's disloyalty to the dollar qualifies them as the next target in the `war on terror.' Iran's interest in switching to the euro as their currency for oil exports is well documented. Perhaps this MSNBC article alludes to the objectives of neo-conservatives.
"While still wrangling over how to overthrow Iraq's Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration is already looking for other targets. President Bush has called for the ouster of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Now some in the administration -- and allies at D.C. think tanks -- are eyeing Iran and even Saudi Arabia. As one senior British official put it: `Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.'" 
Aside from these political risks regarding Saudi Arabia and Iran, another risk factor is actually Japan. Perhaps the biggest gamble in a protracted Iraq war may be Japan's weak economy.  If the war creates prolonged oil high prices ($45 per barrel over several months), or a short but massive oil price spike ($80 to $100 per barrel), some analysts believe Japan's fragile economy would collapse. Japan is quite hypersensitive to oil prices, and if its banks default, the collapse of the second largest economy would set in motion a sequence of events that would prove devastating to the U.S. economy. Indeed, Japan's fall in an Iraq war could create the economic dislocations that begin in the Pacific Rim but quickly spread to Europe and Russia. The Russian government lacks the controls to thwart a disorderly run on the dollar, and such an event could ultimately force an OPEC switch to euros.
Additionally, other risks might arise if the Iraq war goes poorly or becomes prolonged. It is possible that civil unrest may unfold in Kuwait or other OPEC members including Venezuela, as the latter may switch to euros just as Saddam did in November 2000. This would foster the very situation this administration is trying to prevent: another OPEC member switching to euros as their oil transaction currency.
Incidentally, the final `Axis of Evil' country, North Korea, recently decided to officially drop the dollar and begin using euros for trade, effective Dec. 7, 2002.  Unlike the OPEC-producers, North Korea's switch will have negligible economic impact, but it illustrates the geopolitical fallout of Bush's harsh rhetoric. Much more troubling are North Korea's recent actions following the oil embargo of their country. They are in dire need of oil and food; and in an act of desperation they have re-activated their pre-1994 nuclear program. Processing uranium appears to be taking place at a rapid pace, and it appears their strategy is to prompt negotiations with the U.S. regarding food and oil. The CIA estimates that North Korea could produce 4-6 nuclear weapons by the second half of 2003. Ironically, this crisis over North Korea's nuclear program further confirms the fraudulent premise for which this war with Saddam was entirely contrived. Unfortunately, neo-conservatives such as George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearle fail to grasp that Newton's Law applies equally to both physics and the geo-political sphere as well: "For every action there is an equal but opposite reaction."
During the 1990s the world viewed the U.S. as a rather self-absorbed but essentially benevolent superpower. Military actions in Iraq (1990-91 & 1998), Serbia and Kosovo (1999) were undertaken with both U.N. and NATO cooperation and thus afforded international legitimacy. President Clinton also worked to reduce tensions in Northern Ireland and attempted to negotiate a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
However, in both the pre and post 9/11 intervals, the `America first' policies of the Bush administration, with its unwillingness to honor international treaties, along with their aggressive militarisation of foreign policy, has significantly damaged our reputation abroad. Following 9/11, it appears that President Bush's `warmongering rhetoric' has created global tensions -- as we are now viewed as a belligerent superpower willing to apply unilateral military force without U.N. approval.
Lamentably, the tremendous amount of international sympathy that we witnessed in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th tragedy has been replaced with fear and anger at our government. This administration's bellicosity has changed the worldview, and `anti-Americanism' is proliferating even among our closest allies. 
Even more alarming, and completely unreported in the U.S media, are some monetary shifts in the reserve funds of foreign governments away from the dollar with movements towards the euro.  It appears that the world community may lack faith in the Bush administration's economic policies, and along with OPEC, seems poised to respond with economic retribution if the U.S. government is regarded as an uncontrollable and dangerous superpower. The plausibility of abandoning the dollar standard for the euro is growing. An interesting U.K. article by Hazel Henderson outlines the dynamics and the potential outcomes:
The most likely end to US hegemony may come about through a combination of high oil prices (brought about by US foreign policies toward the Middle East) and deeper devaluation of the US dollar (expected by many economists). Some elements of this scenario:
1) US global over-reach in the `war on terrorism' already leading to deficits as far as the eye can see -- combined with historically-high US trade deficits -- lead to a further run on the dollar. This and the stock market doldrums make the US less attractive to the world's capital.
2) More developing countries follow the lead of Venezuela and China in diversifying their currency reserves away from dollars and balanced with euros. Such a shift in dollar-euro holdings in Latin America and Asia could keep the dollar and euro close to parity.
3) OPEC could act on some of its internal discussions and decide (after concerted buying of euros in the open market) to announce at a future meeting in Vienna that OPEC's oil will be re-denominated in euros, or even a new oil-backed currency of their own. A US attack on Iraq sends oil to 40 (euros) per barrel.
4) The Bush Administration's efforts to control the domestic political agenda backfires. Damage over the intelligence failures prior to 9/11 and warnings of imminent new terrorist attacks precipitate a further stock market slide.
5) All efforts by Democrats and the 57% of the US public to shift energy policy toward renewables, efficiency standards, higher gas taxes, etc. are blocked by the Bush Administration and its fossil fuel industry supporters. Thus, the USA remains vulnerable to energy supply and price shocks.
6) The EU recognizes its own economic and political power as the euro rises further and becomes the world's other reserve currency. The G-8 pegs the euro and dollar into a trading band -- removing these two powerful currencies from speculators trading screens (a "win-win" for everyone!). Tony Blair persuades Brits of this larger reason for the UK to join the euro.
7) Developing countries lacking dollars or "hard" currencies follow Venezuela's lead and begin bartering their undervalued commodities directly with each other in computerized swaps and counter trade deals. President Chavez has inked 13 such country barter deals on its oil, e.g., with Cuba in exchange for Cuban health paramedics who are setting up clinics in rural Venezuelan villages.
The result of this scenario? The USA could no longer run its huge current account trade deficits or continue to wage open-ended global war on terrorism or evil. The USA ceases pursuing unilateralist policies. A new US administration begins to return to its multilateralist tradition, ceases its obstruction and rejoins the UN and pursues more realistic international cooperation. 
As for the events currently taking place in Venezuela, items #2 and #7 on the above list may allude to why the Bush administration quickly endorsed the failed military-led coup of Hugo Chavez in April 2002. Although the coup collapsed after 2 days, various reports suggest the CIA and a rather embarrassed Bush administration approved and may have been actively involved with the civilian/military coup plotters.
"George W. Bush's administration was the failed coup's primary loser, underscoring its bankrupt hemispheric policy. Now it is slowly filtering out that in recent months White House officials met with key coup figures, including Carmona. Although the administration insists that it explicitly objected to any extra-constitutional action to remove Chavez, comments by senior U.S. officials did little to convey this. . . .
"The CIA's role in a 1971 Chilean strike could have served as the working model for generating economic and social instability in order to topple Chavez. In the truckers' strike of that year, the agency secretly orchestrated and financed the artificial prolongation of a contrived work stoppage in order to economically asphyxiate the leftist Salvador Allende government.
"This scenario would have had CIA operatives acting in liaison with the Venezuelan military, as well as with opposition business and labor leaders, to convert a relatively minor afternoon-long work stoppage by senior management into a nearly successful coup de grâce." 
Interestingly, according to an article by Michael Ruppert, Venezuelan's ambassador Francisco Mieres-Lopez apparently floated the idea of switching to the euro as their oil currency standard approximately one year before the failed coup attempt. Furthermore, there is evidence that the CIA is still active in its attempts to overthrow the democratically elected Chavez administration. In fact, this past December a Uruguayan government official exposed the ongoing covert CIA operations in Venezuela:
"Uruguayan EP-FA congressman Jose Nayardi says he has information that far-reaching plans have been put into place by the CIA and other North American intelligence agencies to overthrow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias within the next 72 hours. . . .
Nayardi says he has received copies of top-secret communications between the Bush administration in Washington and the government of Uruguay requesting the latter's cooperation to support white collar executives and trade union activists to `break down levels of intransigence within the Chavez Frias administration.'" 
Venezuela is the fourth largest producer of oil, and the corporate elites whose political power runs unfettered in the Bush/Cheney oligarchy appear interested in privatizing Venezuela's oil industry. Furthermore, the establishment might be concerned that Chavez's `barter deals' with 12 Latin American countries and Cuba are effectively cutting the U.S. dollar out of the vital oil transaction currency cycle. Commodities are being traded among these countries in exchange for Venezuela's oil, thereby reducing reliance on fiat dollars. If these unique oil transactions proliferate, they could create more devaluation pressure on the dollar. Continuing attempts by the CIA to remove Hugo Chavez appear likely.
The U.S. economy has acquired significant structural imbalances, including our record-high trade account deficit (now almost 5% of GDP), a $6.3 trillion dollar deficit (60% of GDP), and the recent return to annual budget deficits in the hundreds of billions. These factors would devalue the currency of any nation under the `old rules.' Why is the dollar still predominant despite these structural imbalances? While many Americans assume the strength of the U.S. dollar merely rests on our economic output (i.e. GDP), the ruling elites understand that the dollar's strength is based on two fundamentally unique advantages relative to all other hard currencies.
The reality is that the strength of the U.S. dollar since 1945 rests on its being the international reserve currency. Thus it assumes the role of fiat currency for global oil transactions (ie. `petro-dollar'). The U.S. prints hundreds of billions of these fiat petro-dollars, which are then used by nation states to purchase oil/energy from OPEC producers (except Iraq, to some degree Venezuela, and perhaps Iran in the near future). These petro-dollars are then re-cycled from OPEC back into the U.S. via Treasury Bills or other dollar-denominated assets such as U.S. stocks, real estate, etc. In essence, global oil consumption provides a subsidy to the U.S. economy. Hence, the Europeans created the euro to compete with the dollar as an alternative international reserve currency. Obviously the E.U. would like oil priced in euros as well.
The `old rules' for valuation of the U.S. dollar currency and economic power were based on our flexible market, free flow of trade goods, high per worker productivity, manufacturing output/trade surpluses, government oversight of accounting methodologies (ie. SEC), developed infrastructure, education system, and of course total cash flow and profitability. Our superior military power afforded some additional confidence in the dollar. While many of these factors remain present, over the last two decades we have diluted some of the `safe harbor' economic fundamentals. Despite vast imbalances and structural problems that are escalating within the U.S. economy, the dollar as the fiat oil currency created `new rules'. The following excerpts from an Asia Times article discusses the virtues of our fiat oil currency and dollar hegemony (or vices from the perspective of developing nations, whose debt is denominated in dollars).
"Ever since 1971, when US president Richard Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard (at $35 per ounce) that had been agreed to at the Bretton Woods Conference at the end of World War II, the dollar has been a global monetary instrument that the United States, and only the United States, can produce by fiat. The dollar, now a fiat currency, is at a 16-year trade-weighted high despite record US current-account deficits and the status of the US as the leading debtor nation. The US national debt as of April 4 was $6.021 trillion against a gross domestic product (GDP) of $9 trillion.
"World trade is now a game in which the US produces dollars and the rest of the world produces things that dollars can buy.The world's interlinked economies no longer trade to capture a comparative advantage; they compete in exports to capture needed dollars to service dollar-denominated foreign debts and to accumulate dollar reserves to sustain the exchange value of their domestic currencies. To prevent speculative and manipulative attacks on their currencies, the world's central banks must acquire and hold dollar reserves in corresponding amounts to their currencies in circulation. The higher the market pressure to devalue a particular currency, the more dollar reserves its central bank must hold. This creates a built-in support for a strong dollar that in turn forces the world's central banks to acquire and hold more dollar reserves, making it stronger. This phenomenon is known as dollar hegemony, which is created by the geopolitically constructed peculiarity that critical commodities, most notably oil, are denominated in dollars. Everyone accepts dollars because dollars can buy oil. The recycling of petro-dollars is the price the US has extracted from oil-producing countries for US tolerance of the oil-exporting cartel since 1973. "By definition, dollar reserves must be invested in US assets, creating a capital-accounts surplus for the US economy. Even after a year of sharp correction, US stock valuation is still at a 25-year high and trading at a 56 percent premium compared with emerging markets. ". . . The US capital-account surplus in turn finances the US trade deficit. Moreover, any asset, regardless of location, that is denominated in dollars is a US asset in essence. When oil is denominated in dollars through US state action and the dollar is a fiat currency, the US essentially owns the world's oil for free. And the more the US prints greenbacks, the higher the price of US assets will rise. Thus a strong-dollar policy gives the US a double win." 
This unique geo-political agreement with Saudi Arabia in 1973 has worked to our favor for the past 30 years, as this arrangement has raised the entire asset value of all dollar denominated assets/properties, and allowed the Federal Reserve to create a truly massive debt and credit expansion (or `credit bubble' in the view of some economists). These structural imbalances in the U.S. economy are sustainable as long as:
nations continue to demand and purchase oil for their energy/survival needs, and
the fiat reserve currency for global oil transactions remain the U.S. dollar (and dollar only).
These underlying factors, along with the `safe harbor' reputation of U.S. investments afforded by the dollar's reserve currency status propelled the U.S. to economic and military hegemony in the post-World War II period. However, the introduction of the euro is a significant new factor, and appears to be the primary threat to U.S. economic hegemony. Moreover, in December 2002 ten additional countries were approved for full membership into the E.U. In 2004 this will result in an aggregate GDP of $9.6 trillion and 450 million people, directly competing with the U.S. economy ($10.5 trillion GDP, 280 million people).
Especially interesting is a speech given by Mr Javad Yarjani, the Head of OPEC's Petroleum Market Analysis Department, in a visit to Spain in April 2002. His speech dealt entirely with the subject of OPEC oil transaction currency standard with respect to both the dollar and the euro. The following excerpts from this OPEC executive's speech provide insights into the conditions that would create momentum for an OPEC currency switch to the euro. Indeed, his candid analysis warrants careful consideration given that two of the requisite variables he outlines for the switch have taken place since this speech in Spring 2002. These vital stories are discussed in the European media, but have been censored by our own mass media.
". . . The question that comes to mind is whether the euro will establish itself in world financial markets, thus challenging the supremacy of the US dollar, and consequently trigger a change in the dollar's dominance in oil markets. As we all know, the mighty dollar has reigned supreme since 1945, and in the last few years has even gained more ground with the economic dominance of the United States, a situation that may not change in the near future. By the late 90s, more than four-fifths of all foreign exchange transactions, and half of all world exports, were denominated in dollars. In addition, the US currency accounts for about two thirds of all official exchange reserves. The world's dependency on US dollars to pay for trade has seen countries bound to dollar reserves, which are disproportionably higher than America's share in global output. The share of the dollar in the denomination of world trade is also much higher than the share of the US in world trade.
"Having said that, it is worthwhile to note that in the long run the euro is not at such a disadvantage versus the dollar when one compares the relative sizes of the economies involved, especially given the EU enlargement plans. Moreover, the Euro-zone has a bigger share of global trade than the US and while the US has a huge current account deficit, the euro area has a more, or balanced, external accounts position. One of the more compelling arguments for keeping oil pricing and payments in dollars has been that the US remains a large importer of oil, despite being a substantial crude producer itself. However, looking at the statistics of crude oil exports, one notes that the Euro-zone is an even larger importer of oil and petroleum products than the US. . . .
". . . From the EU's point of view, it is clear that Europe would prefer to see payments for oil shift from the dollar to the euro, which effectively removes the currency risk. It would also increase demand for the euro and thus help raise its value. Moreover, since oil is such an important commodity in global trade, in terms of value, if pricing were to shift to the euro, it could provide a boost to the global acceptability of the single currency. There are also very strong trade links between OPEC Member Countries (MCs) and the Euro-zone, with more than 45 percent of total merchandise imports of OPEC MCs coming from the countries of the Euro-zone, while OPEC MCs are main suppliers of oil and crude oil products to Europe. . . .
"Of major importance to the ultimate success of the euro, in terms of the oil pricing, will be if Europe's two major oil producers -- the United Kingdom and Norway join the single currency. Naturally, the future integration of these two countries into the Euro-zone and Europe will be important considering they are the region's two major oil producers in the North Sea, which is home to the international crude oil benchmark, Brent. This might create a momentum to shift the oil pricing system to euros. . . .
"In the short-term, OPEC MCs, with possibly few exceptions, are expected to continue to accept payment in dollars. Nevertheless, I believe that OPEC will not discount entirely the possibility of adopting euro pricing and payments in the future. The Organization, like many other financial houses at present, is also assessing how the euro will settle into its life as a new currency. The critical question for market players is the overall value and stability of the euro, and whether other countries within the Union will adopt the single currency. ". . . Should the euro challenge the dollar in strength, which essentially could include it in the denomination of the oil bill, it could be that a system may emerge which benefits more countries in the long-term. Perhaps with increased European integration and a strong European economy, this may become a reality. Time may be on your side. I wish the euro every success." 
Based on this important speech, momentum for OPEC to consider switching to the euro will grow once the E.U. expands in May 2004 to 450 million people with the inclusion of 10 additional member states. The aggregate GDP will increase from $7 trillion to $9.6 trillion. This enlarged European Union (EU) will be an oil consuming purchasing population 33% larger than the U.S., and over half of OPEC crude oil will be sold to the EU as of mid-2004. This does not include other potential E.U./euro entrants such as the U.K., Norway, Denmark and Sweden. It should be noted that since late 2002, the euro has been trading at parity or above the dollar, and analysts predict the dollar will continue its downward trending in 2003 relative to the euro.
It appears the final two pivotal items that would create the OPEC transition to euros will be based on (1) if and when Norway's Brent crude is re-dominated in euros and (2) when the U.K. adopts the euro. Regarding the latter, Tony Blair is lobbying heavily for the U.K. to adopt the euro, and their adoption would seem imminent within this decade. If and when the U.K. adopts the euro currency I suspect a concerted effort will be quickly mounted to establish the euro as an international reserve currency. Again, I offer the following information from my astute acquaintance who analyzes these monetary matters very carefully:
"The pivotal vote will probably be Sweden, where approval this next autumn of adopting the euro also would give momentum to the Danish government's strong desire to follow suit. Polls in Denmark now indicate that the euro would pass with a comfortable margin and Norwegian polls show a growing majority in favor of EU membership. Indeed, with Norway having already integrated most EU economic directives through the EEA partnership and with their strongly appreciated currency, their accession to the euro would not only be effortless, but of great economic benefit.
"As go the Swedes, so probably will go the Danes & Norwegians. It's the British who are the real obstacle to building momentum for the euro as international transaction & reserve currency. So long as the United Kingdom remains apart from the euro, reducing exchange rate costs between the euro and the British pound remains their obvious priority. British adoption (a near-given in the long run) would mount significant pressure toward repegging the Brent crude benchmark -- which is traded on the International Petroleum Exchange in London -- and the Norwegians would certainly have no objection whatsoever that I can think of, whether or not they join the European Union.
"Finally, the maneuvers toward reducing the global dominance of the dollar are already well underway and have only reason to accelerate so far as I can see. An OPEC pricing shift would seem rather unlikely prior 2004 -- barring political motivations (ie. from anxious OPEC members) or a disorderly collapse of the dollar (ie. Japanese bank collapse due to high oil prices following a prolonged Iraq conflict) but appears quite viable to take place before the end of the decade."
In other words, around 2005/2006, from a purely economic and monetary perspective, it will become logical for several OPEC producers to transition to the euro for oil pricing. Of course that will devalue the dollar, and hurt the US economy unless it begins making structural and monetary changes right away -- or uses its massive military power to force events upon OPEC . . .