Energy issue explained

Gregory D. Miller is an assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Oklahoma. He apparently specialized in international politics dedicating his Political Science career to researching terrorism and national security in general.

In the Washington Quarterly‘s previous issue, he discussed the issue of energy independence. The sources that Professor Miller cited range from print media to think tanks and websites of governments and international institutions. What he discovered in his research is that energy independence cannot be acquired easily, not only because of hardships to adjust to the new energy sources – whatever they may be – but also because of potential conflicts with oil producing countries.

In other words, Professor Miller pointed out that “any dramatic reduction in U.S. dependence on oil will create major security concerns, not only for current oil-exporting countries and their neighbors, but also for the West.” The major security concerns as a result of the U.S. not buying or at least buying a lot smaller quantities of oil, according to Gregory Miller’s analysis, include the following three:

  • International conflicts between oil-exporting and oil-importing countries. According to the concept of interdependence, the more interdependent countries are, the less likely a conflict between them, not to mention that cooperation between these countries such as that involving the fight against terrorism will disappear.
  • International and internal conflicts between oil-exporting countries themselves. Less revenue from oil, the Professor speculates, would lead to less social programs, less opportunities for education and development of technology and declining infrastructure. In other words, when those basic needs become luxuries as a result of less revenue, there is a lot higher likelihood for any kind of conflict to appear.
  • Oil-exporting countries seeking alternative sources of income, most likely illicit trades ranging from narcotics to arms. These trades exist in many of these countries, Professor Miller noted, but he also added that lost revenue from oil trade – whether in the form of sanctions or anything else – would increase these illicit trades. Currency counterfeiting and human trafficking are also among the potential negative consequences.

 He even tucked in data that shows OPEC countries’ trend of increasing percentage of GDP from their production of oil. Simply put, their economies – except for Indonesia’s – are not diversifying thus becoming even more reliant on oil exports. Therefore, any percentage point of reduction in the dependence of oil by the U.S. would make it more likely for the above mentioned security concerns to occur.

Gregory Miller reflected on the counterargument of a possibility of democracy to occur as a result of revenue loss from oil which would inhibit the power of certain domestic groups that benefit from the production of oil – what is largely known, but not mentioned in the article, as oligarchs. He almost entirely denied this counterargument deeming such newly-emerged democracies “among the least stable.”

Three are the solutions that, according to Professor Miller, the U.S. and the rest of the developed world should consider in pursuing alternative energy while avoiding any of the three security concerns mentioned above:

  • Transparency in their alternative energy goals so that the oil producing countries have any idea what to do, when, and at what rate in order to offset their dependence on oil exports.
  • Incentives for more foreign direct investment (FDI) outside the oil sector in the oil producing countries.
  • Cooperation in improving education in the oil producing countries, especially in ones like Qatar where, according to the CIA World Factbook, illiteracy is at relatively low levels: 89 percent.

However, I don’t agree with the first solution

While I admire Gregory Miller’s passion about the issue and evaluate his analysis as very insightful and with good intentions (and not populist propaganda), I see his first solution as somewhere in the sphere of utopia. Here’s why I see it as inconceivable for a country to be transparent on its alternative energy goals:

  • Islamic Republic of Iran and governments with a similar goal – to spread Islam all over the world and terrorize everyone who dares to question its preachings or preachers or similar repressive goals – will take advantage of such a transparency by adjusting their policies in order to meet their short term goals (building weapons of mass destruction, also known as WMDs) and long term goals (spreading their propaganda).
  • Transparency should be a two-way street. Even nowadays the U.S. and the rest appear to be comparatively more transparent than North Korea, Iran, China, Russia (the recent spy swap is among the list of proofs for that). Exactly a year ago (how time flies, right), I agreed with former Secretary of Defense (under the Jimmy Carter Administration) James Rodney Schlesinger who said that nuclear weapons are important for a country’s national security and that of its allies. In that article, I said that it is impossible to know that every country will destroy every WMD that it has. The same goes for transparency in the alternative energy policy. It is highly unlikely, if not impossible, to know that it will be a two-way street.

Other than that, I liked this analysis. It serves as a possible interpretation to why alternative energy policies appear to be stalled. It also confirms the notion that behind every action – be it in government or in life – there is money involved.

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