In energy, we're all connected
As host of this weekend's summit of top world leaders in Russia, Vladimir Putin got the party theme right. "Energy security" is a hot topic, given doubled oil prices over the past three years. Yet the Russian president's views on this subject need adjusting.
As the biggest energy exporter among the Group of Eight industrialized countries, known as the G-8, Russia's take on this issue carries weight – dead weight. The Russian president is increasing state control over his country's oil and gas wealth. He's limiting foreign investment in these hydrocarbons and wants to do what he can to lock in demand for the energy exports. Most troubling, he's not above using fuel as a political weapon.
But Mr. Putin's hardly alone in his view that national control of energy equals a secure future for his country. China, for instance, thinks that if its state-managed firms can just buy stakes in enough oil fields – in Sudan, Nigeria, and Angola, for example – it can guarantee fuel for its surging economic growth.
If the leaders of the G-8 do anything this weekend, they would do well to move closer to an understanding that energy security (i.e. enough supply at an affordable price) is a matter of global market interdependence – not national control.
Given the tight supply and high prices of today's petroleum scene, that's a tough concept for some governments to grasp. With China and India as significant new buyers in the world energy market; with some oil experts warning that the world has already used up half its crude oil reserves; and with a host of other threats, including terrorism and other geopolitical instability, not to mention hurricanes – it's no wonder some countries want to get (or tend) their own patch before the getting's too late.