January 21, 2005

It all comes down to oil....

A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor highlighted a key concern for the United States in the coming years - the ballooning Chinese demand for oil. Oil, the primary American national interest in the Middle East, and our reliance on it, will continue to dominate our foreign policy untiil we adopt a coherent energy policy.

This is one of the key challenges facing not only us, but the entire industrialized world in the coming years. While oil production and delivery are peaking and will eventually level, demand is going to increase exponentially as not only China and India develop, but the emerging nations of South America and Southeast Asia. I agree, though, that China and India with their huge populations will be the major players. Wait until every Chinese family has one or two cars.

"Oil is a fungible commodity..." is a common theme in my Middle East presentations. Although we only import about 15 percent of our oil from the region, the fact that oil is a fungible commodity makes that number irrelevant. All that matters is how much is available on the market on any given day. If there is a disruption in the flow of Middle East/Persian Gulf oil, those countries that are the main consumers of that oil will then be vying with us to buy oil from our traditional sources - Venezuela, Mexico, Norway, Nigeria, etc.

It was Jimmy Carter who first stated that we would use military force to guarantee that Persian Gulf oil flows. Until the United States creates and implements a coherent energy policy, we will have American forces deployed to protect that oil supply (mainly Saudi Arabia) and the sea lanes of communications (currently the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea SLOCs). It doesn't matter so much what the policy is, let's just have one! If the policy is to import and use foreign oil, fine, let's say so and accept the fact that we will have to commit our military resources to making sure that flow continues. If it is to drill in our own environmentally sensitive areas, fine, let's say so and get on with it. If it's to rethink nuclear power generation, fine, let's say so and seek some better technology. But let's not continue on our rudderless journey into greater reliance on imported oil.
Falling off my soapbox now.