Oil imperialism is the theory that access to oil defined 20th century empires and was the key to the ascendancy of the United States as the world's sole superpower. It also explains why Russia was able to sustain itself for so long despite poor economic organizations.
The Paris 1919 has some documented incidents of some peoples, notably the Kurd and Arab populations of what became Iraq, being denied self-determination because they were sitting on what were thought to be large oil reserves. Saudi Arabia was permitted sovereignty because it was thought not to be oil-rich! This distinction alone is hard to explain any other way than with the oil imperialism theory, though, whether the rules have changed since 1919 is always open to debate.
In strict form, this theory implies that all other considerations, such as human rights or national sovereignty or biodiversity, always take second place to access to cheap fossil fuel energy. It is a popular view among those who study energy economics generally, and some political ecologists. It is however very controversial, and some claims its advocates make may amount to propaganda.