Monday, January 9, 2012

Post #150 - The greasy wheel gets the squeaks...

BP's Statiscal Review of World Energy* for this past year may inadvertently say a great deal about U.S. foreign policy:

Of the dozen largest possessors of fossil fuel in the form of recoverable petroleum, which has the most to worry about? Might that not be the United States, ranked twelfth, with just over two percent of the world's proven reserves? Going it alone, even with fracking oil shale and burning dirty coal, is hardly a viable option, unless we got much, much more serious about renewables.

Of those twelve, which might be considered the least worrisome to us, of all our competitors?

How about Canada, which has only slightly more than we do (at 2.3%) -- part of which we import, since their smaller, more frugal population doesn't need at as much as we do.

Which other countries can be safely ignored? I would propose Nigeria or Kazakhstan, at 2.7 and 2.9 %, respectively. (How often do you see either of them on the front page, even though one is a mess and the other a dictatorship?)

Airstrike on Libya
Would Libya -- at 3.4% -- be deemed a liability? Yes, but not worth sending ground troops over.

Who stands at twice our reserves, and therefore hard to ignore? The Russian Federation, which is able to use its natural resources (5.6 % of the oil) as leverage with its neighboring former-Soviet states.

The Gulf states, such as the UAE (at 7.1%), are shown deference far out of proportion with their size, their population or their other contributions to commerce or culture, but we don't pay them much attention as long as they mind their own business.

Tiny Kuwait might have been no more consequential than Djibouti or Andorra, but for the fact that it controls 7.3 % of the world's oil. Why, we might even go to war if such a country were occupied by another power (oh, wait...we did that already).

Now, if a country (such as, say... Iraq) had as much 8% of the oil, we might even invade it (oops...there we go again).

What would it take to drive the United States out of its ever-loving mind? A hefty 9.9 %, like that of Iran, or a whopping 15.3 %, like Venezuela. We might have to threaten them, or do something to destabilize their governments, rather than have them put the screws to us on oil supply (it must really rankle some policy-makers that Venezuela sends fuel oil to Americans who would otherwise freeze this winter).

A President and a Prince
Finally, which country might hold SO much oil that we simply wouldn't risk upsetting them? Want to take a guess who almost single-handedly controls the price of gasoline in the world? Which country has an abysmal human rights record, to which we turn a blind eye? Which country enjoyed privileges of access to both Bush administrations that even the United Kingdom would envy? Hint: it occupies most of the Arabian peninsula and has nearly 20% of the world's reserves.

Now, don't get me wrong; geopolitics in the Middle East is NOT, as some would have you believe, "all about oil." (It's just way ahead of whatever's in second place.)

*As reported in the Washington Post, January 9, 2012.

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