November 28, 2021


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Oil price shocks and conflict escalation: Location matters

Each casual observations and educational research advise an association in between pure useful resource abundance and civil conflict. The pattern is potentially notably prominent for oil prosperity, the place there is anecdotal proof. Contemplate, for case in point, ISIL’s strategic handle of methods in Syria and Iraq, oil theft by MEND rebels in Nigeria, and assaults on extraction services by Darfur insurgents in South Sudan – all illustrations of oil getting at the centre of the conflict, each as a supply of funding for the contenders and as a likely prize for the battling. Yet, developing a causal hyperlink involving oil and conflict has established complicated, and we do not realize fully why conflict results are so distinct throughout countries with distinctive features (Bazzi and Blattmann 2014, Cotet and Tsui 2013).

In new exploration (Andersen et al. 2021), we get a refreshing seem at the oil-conflict nexus by analysing how conflict and war escalations count on the area of oil. We start by observing that conflict more typically escalates from very low-level violence to full-scale civil conflict and war in nations with predominantly onshore oil than in nations with much more offshore oil (see Figure 1). This wide sample begs an significant problem: Does the locale of oil condition how oil windfalls causally impact conflict results? And, if so, what are the mechanisms?

Determine 1

The spot of oil issues

Why would normal assets gasoline conflict in the very first position? The two most distinguished explanations are the state prize speculation and the prospect expense system. The former proposes that source windfalls enhance battling simply because domestic rebel teams want a piece of the pie. The latter concept in its place treats preventing as an economic action whereby a resource windfall may possibly affect the option charge of engaging in conflict actions, relative to other non-violent activities. Existing empirical investigation indicates that which of the two mechanisms plays a job in shaping incentives for violence relies upon greatly on how funds-intensive the extraction of the provided source is. 

Dube and Vargas (2013), for instance, clearly show that rate shocks to the money-intensive oil sector in Colombia are positively associated to violent conflict, though the relationship is adverse for the labour-intense coffee sector. This lends assistance to the hypothesis that oil revenue fosters lease in search of conduct by escalating the condition prize, although profits from espresso triggers an chance price influence by escalating worker wages. 

In our paper, as a substitute of evaluating two diverse sorts of commodities, we concentration on the same commodity – oil – in order to explore a distinct mechanism. We argue that, while onshore and offshore oil are similar in conditions of cash depth, onshore oil is additional easily accessed and appropriated by rebels than offshore oil – for noticeable causes (offshore oil fields are often situated significantly from the shoreline and more durable to loot). This has an effect on the relative combating capacities of authorities and rebels. The place there is offshore oil, the authorities enjoys exclusive accessibility to clean money from an oil windfall, which gives an gain above rebel teams. This dampens conflict as the contenders’ conflict capabilities become additional asymmetrical, leaning in favour of the incumbent govt. The place there is onshore oil, govt and rebels can each individual entry the oil and gain from the windfall, night out the odds of achievements in a conflict. This improves conflict depth relative to an offshore oil windfall, as contenders turn out to be additional equal in toughness. 

This interpretation, based mostly on the distinct potential of government and rebels to obtain onshore and offshore oil amenities, echoes identical arguments on the significance of conflict financing (Fearon 2004, Collier et al. 2009). It is also in line with new empirical evidence by Berman et al. (2017), who clearly show that the appropriation of mining revenues by rebel groups contributes to the spreading of conflict to other components of the state – some thing the authors attribute to the improved economic capability to maintain larger sized-scale insurgency.

What is the essential blend of onshore and offshore oil?

In order to obtain a exact insight into how considerably onshore and offshore manufacturing just about every nation has, we construct actions of onshore and offshore petroleum intensity by nation, working with sector-licensed details from Rystad Energy’s UCube database (2013). Rystad is an unbiased oil and gas consulting company headquartered in Oslo, Norway, which collects manufacturing info from oil and fuel companies’ once-a-year stories as nicely as authorities’ historical production accounts. Primarily based on their information, we calculated for every single state the typical share of onshore and offshore oil production in GDP about the sample period 1962-2009. A map of the earth, with nations around the world sorted by their onshore and offshore oil generation, can be viewed in Determine 2. 

Determine 2

To realize a causal interpretation of the hyperlink amongst oil money and the likelihood that a conflict escalates, we exploit the variation in the global cost of crude oil. Oil rate variation translates into oil windfalls for a country in proportion to its degree of oil generation: when the price boosts, the place receives a positive windfall when the rate lower, the windfall is damaging. The variation in the price of oil is arguably exogenous for the the greater part of oil producers that do not have the marketplace electricity to influence its worldwide price tag. 

A vital innovation more than earlier perform is that we permit this exogenous variation in a country’s oil cash flow rely on the country’s onshore and offshore petroleum intensities. Executing so, and reliable with our design predictions, we display that an improve in offshore oil profits cuts down the likelihood of a conflict escalating from lower-stage violence to civil conflict or war. By distinction, we notice the opposite influence for onshore oil, exactly where an boost in oil cash flow sales opportunities to a bigger probability that a conflict will escalate into extra violence.

These opposite outcomes suggest that past null-results of the romance involving oil and conflict may perhaps be a consequence of not getting the onshore-offshore dimension into account. In reality, when we add the onshore and offshore creation volumes and seem at the influence of an enhance in full oil windfalls on conflict escalations, we verify the null final results from the earlier scientific studies (Bazzi and Blattmann 2014, Cotet and Tsui 2013).

Our paper indicates that there exists a threshold sum of onshore oil extraction, earlier mentioned which an oil windfall raises the probability of conflict escalation. Based on the info from Rystad and estimates from our empirical product, we estimate this threshold to be at about 40{3a94529b2b68d99beac25dca5c1678936e723415472492fb18744b4f77d809a2} of onshore oil in overall manufacturing. International locations with a share of onshore production earlier mentioned the threshold incorporate conflict-ridden states like Syria, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, and Chad, while nations under the threshold contain reasonably stable oil-abundant international locations like Azerbaijan, Cameroon, and Mexico. In other text, if a country has additional than about 60{3a94529b2b68d99beac25dca5c1678936e723415472492fb18744b4f77d809a2} offshore oil in whole oil, an oil windfall on normal minimizes the conflict amount. 

How do rebels acquire from oil?

How plausible is it that onshore oil provides funding for rebels, although offshore oil does not? We check the primary argument of the paper employing knowledge that evaluate the relative energy of rebels vis-à-vis the government from Cunningham et al. (2013). When oil windfalls increase in countries with predominantly onshore oil, we see an enhance both of those in rebel’s energy and in the number of energetic rebel teams. How can rebels achieve from possessing access to oil? Walsh et al. (2018) give in depth info on how rebels make revenue from the exploitation of distinctive varieties of organic means, oil fields becoming a person of these sources. We display that rebel teams bolster more when there is both onshore oil and the oil is appropriable through both immediate looting or the extortion of oil firms. This empirical sample is in line with our conjecture that onshore oil is obtainable while offshore is not. Therefore, the two ‘types’ of oil have a different effects on the conflict potential of rebels and governments. 


Our research shows that the location of oil represents a important determinant of conflict escalation and de-escalation in oil abundant countries. This is due to its asymmetric appropriability by the components in conflict, with onshore oil more possible to be attacked, looted, and even seized by rebel groups, who can use the proceeds from the looting to boost their battling potential. Although our findings indicate that countries wealthy in onshore oil are additional most likely to degenerate into civil conflict, this does not imply that offshore oil is a blessing for a country’s citizens. In simple fact, offshore oil revenues have usually provided steady sources and greater balance to oppressive governments (this sort of as in Congo, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea). A detailed welfare assessment of the implications of oil abundance and its location stays a initially buy dilemma for future research.


Bazzi, S and C Blattman (2014), “Economic shocks and conflict: Evidence from commodity Prices”, American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics 6(4): 1–38.

Berman, N, M Couttenier, D Rohner and M Thoenig (2017), “This mine is mine! How minerals gasoline conflicts in Africa”, American Financial Evaluate 107(6): 1564–1610.

Cotet, A M and K K Tsui (2013), “Oil and conflict: What does the cross-place evidence really demonstrate?”, American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics 5(1): 49–80.

Collier, P, A Hoeffler and D Rohner (2009), “Beyond greed and grievance: feasibility and civil war”, Oxford Economic Papers 61(1): 1–27.

Cunningham, D E, K S Gleditsch and I Salehyan (2013), “Non-state actors in civil wars: A new dataset”, Conflict Administration and Peace Science 30(5): 516–531.

Dube, O and J F Vargas (2013), “Commodity value shocks and civil conflict: Proof from Colombia”, The Overview of Financial Experiments 80(4): 1384–1421.

Fearon, J D (2004), “Why do some civil wars previous so substantially for a longer time than other folks?”, Journal of Peace Investigation 41(3): 275–301.

Tesei, A, J J Andersen and F M Nordvik (2021), “Oil Price Shocks and Conflict Escalation: Onshore vs. Offshore”, CEPR Dialogue Paper 16454.