Peak Oil is You

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Page added on November 29, 2008

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An Ode to Oil

America’s oil dependency has some benefits. Roger Howard on how the diminishing resource acts as a source of stability, and forces countries to work together.

In its collective mindset, every nation not only harbors aspirations, fears and delusions but also conjures rogues, villains and scapegoats upon which it vents its anguish, insecurities and resentments. And for many Americans, one such villain is a highly prized commodity.

Oil is, after all, a primary source of man-made global warming, while spillages and drilling have sometimes inflicted lethal environmental damage. Despite the sharp falls of recent months, dramatic price rises have also underwritten every postwar global recession, including the current economic malaise.

Oil lies at the heart of bitter civil wars in several parts of the world, notably West Africa, while several governments have recently been scrambling to stake their claims over the newly discovered deposits of the Arctic. Above all, it is often regarded as America’s strategic Achilles’ heel. President-elect Barack Obama has promised to end U.S. “foreign oil dependency,” claiming that it can be used as a “weapon” that allows overseas governments, particularly “unstable, undemocratic governments…to wield undue influence over America’s national security.” Last weekend, Mr. Obama announced his plan to create a major economic stimulus package, including spending on alternate energy.

Alarming as these scenarios are, they disguise the true picture, one that is really much more complicated and much more reassuring. While there are, of course, circumstances in which oil can exacerbate tensions and be a source of conflict, it can also act as a peacemaker and source of stability. So to identify America’s “foreign oil dependency” as a source of vulnerability and weakness is just too neat and easy.

Wall St. Journal

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