A Word on the U.S. as a Petro-State
Steve LeVine has been running a series of articles over at his blog on Foreign Policy, The Oil and the Glory about whether becoming a petro-state would change America’s character. While Steve is skeptical that the U.S. can in the future account for most of its energy requirements, I do actually believe that we’re going in that direction (see: Is the U.S. on track to join OPEC and Why U.S. Energy Policy is Poised for a Fundamental Shift).
The numbers are pretty convincing to me: we’re using less energy, especially oil, and we’re producing much more. Eventually, those curves are bound to cross, not today, or even this year, but maybe this decade.
Like me, Steve is more interested in the implications for policy of this change than whether or not it is actually happening. Steve is an expert on Putin’s Russia and he naturally draws on that for petro-state inspiration. Tongue fully in cheek, he writes in his weekly wrap, “I wondered whether we might see either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, shirtless, hunting a tiger while hurling curses at one another.“
He then asked several of us working on this issue to comment on what we would expect to happen, as the U.S. becomes a petro state. It is an honor to be quoted along with John Hofmeister, Michael Levi, Ed Chow, and David Biello.
Because I believe that the U.S. is already well on its way to becoming a petro-state, I wrote to Steve: “Americans see buying an electric vehicle as unpatriotic, vilify companies that make them as government stooges, and proudly fly the flag from the top of their new 16 mile-per-gallon SUVs.”
In a serious matter, becoming a Petrostate is not all roses. As Michael Ross, the author of The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations notes, “Countries that are rich in petroleum have less democracy, less economic stability, and more frequent civil wars than countries without oil.” I know that Robert Rapier and Sam Avro here at Consumer Energy Report point to the examples of Norway and the U.K. as major oil producers who were not undercut by the sudden development of oil, but I would hesitate to be so optimistic. Producing oil – essentially becoming energy secure – could really change American politics, foreign policy, and business. I intend to more fully explore how over the next several weeks here on the Energy, Security, Policy blog.