The Diplomacy of Energy- Updated 10 May!
Click the link below the original post to read the update!
Allow me to apologize in advance for what might be a week of light posting- the Foreign Service annual evaluation cycle peaks this week and everyone in the FS is going nuts with the evalutaion process on top of the normal work. Writing an EER (the eval doc) is a lot less fun than writing this blog- and then there are the second level reviews and the proofing of all those reports. Long story short- I am tired. As Smiley might say, please turn on the violin music and pass me an Appletini.
Luckily plenty of other good bloggers are pounding away at the keyboard-and I am going to pick up some threads they have started. The first is a series of posts at Big Cat Chronicles on oil, the future, and U.S. oil dependency. I am going to examine the followign posts on that blog and then tie them in as best I can to the practice of diplomacy. Here are the posts for background reading:
1. Are we running out of oil?
2. Oil reserves -- why we should care about the Middle East
3. Proven versus probable oil reserves -- impacts on reported reserves
I hope to return to this topic tonight but in case I get bogged down in EERs here is a loose outline of my ideas:
I will examine U.S. policy towards foreign oil producers in the Middle East, Latin America and Eurasia. I am intersted in the amount of aid and development we have poured into the regions in addition to the number of dollars invested. What are the politics of those regions and how do they compare to our stated foreign policy goals? What alternatives might exist to our current policies, and why are we not pursuing them?
I invite all of our readers to send us e-mail related to this topic, or to offer your opinions in the comments section. Don't be shy- tell us what you think. Should we just take the oil in Iraq and call it "Oil for Freedom"? Should we divert some of the foreign aid dollars we spend towards research on alternative energy? How about trade water to Mexico for oil?
I am going to try to address all of this and more over the next few days- it might be in dribs and drabs, though, so any contributions you can make to help keep me and Smiley going will be greatfully appreciated.(Update begins after this marker.)
Yesterday I posted a piece referring to the Big Cat Chronicles recent oil trilogy (see above). Roaring Tiger opened with the question: Are we running out of oil? Tiger’s answer: it depends on who you talk to. While that is a true enough answer in the short term, in the not so long term the answer is simply YES. Oil is a non-renewable resource (not withstanding a recent comment), and we will eventually run out. Will we run out in the next decade or two? Of course not. But in the next five, or seven? In that range the possibility becomes much more real- Tiger cites a U.S. geological study that gives the most recent estimate as the year 2056 when global reserves are depleted.
Granted Tiger also cites and discredits several older studies that predicted the end of oil various times over the last century plus. He also speaks to the technological advances that have enabled us to suck ever more black gold from the earth. It is here that I find a flaw- if we are increasingly better able to procure more oil have we not also refined our techniques to estimate how much oil remains? Four decades worth or seven, however, is irrelevant. We are indeed running out. We are addicted to oil- and worse yet, we are addicted to foreign oil. The U.S. is the single largest consumer of oil on the planet, and the bulk of the oil we use is imported.
Consider the sources of oil available to us. Let’s start with OPEC- The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. We can, for the time being at least, ignore the fact that OPEC exists to fix prices. Let’s examine the membership, in order of import as ranked by gross production:
-United Arab Emirates
How many friends do you count on that list? Me neither. Let’s take a brief recount: Saudi Arabia- we saved their bacon (figuratively) from Saddam. They repaid us with September 11th. Iraq- see Saddam Hussein and continued attacks. Iran- the Embassy there is no longer on my bid lists, as you may recall. Kuwait- inoffensive, but not much of a booster. Venezuela- President Chavez, you are judged by the company you keep. UAE- one good golf tournament a year does not an ally make. Libya- do you trust Quaddafi? Qatar- financiers of al Jazeera. Do I even have to address the last three? We are, as a nation, simply too dependent on foreign oil.
Not a single one of the OPEC countries can be called (with a straight face) a free society. Iraq is on its way, but we have been doing business with them for many, many years. The UN “Oil for Food” scandal, as much as I love to pick at it, would not have occurred if we were not bent on having oil from the Saddam regime.
So where does this leave us? Currently it appears as if we are staring down a dead end. Alternative fuels are not taken seriously, at least in the U.S. I am no tree-hugging electro-car driving Ed Begly type- I am a realist. I know that producing energy always has a cost. Our dependence on foreign oil, however, puts us at risk. Not political risk as the price at the pump goes up (that too of course) but real risk. We need oil- and we need it too badly.
I plan to continue this thread throughout the week, thanks for all the great comments so far- keep ‘em coming!