Monday, April 13, 2015

Steve A. Yetiv's "Myths of the Oil Boom"

Steve A. Yetiv is the Louis I. Jaffe Professor of International Relations at Old Dominion University. His books include The Petroleum Triangle (2011) and National Security Through a Cockeyed Lens (2013). He has also published over 250 editorials in papers including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Christian Science Monitor, and has appeared on CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN and NPR.

Yetiv applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Myths of the Oil Boom: American National Security in a Global Energy Market, and reported the following:
Page 99 is representative of my book only in so far as it helps sketch one of the many myths of the oil boom. The oil boom refers to the revolution in the production of American oil—a development that has altered global energy and security but whose effects, I believe, are exaggerated. Many thinkers and leaders believe that the oil boom, for instance, will significantly protect the United States from oil disruptions which would be very important since most of America's recessions have been related to such disruptions.

There is some truth to this view but I feel that it is exaggerated because the United States and the world over the past four decades have become much better at deterring and containing oil disruptions and this occurred before the oil boom. Therefore, the oil boom is just one more shock absorber against oil disruptions. It can be added to the mix of shock absorbers that have developed over time, including the development of strategic petroleum reserves and American military capability and cooperation in the Persian Gulf.

Page 99 discusses two of these shock absorbers, including a measure of efficiency called energy intensity. Even though as page 99 notes the United States lacks a comprehensive energy policy, it has become become much more efficient at using energy over the past several decades which makes the economy less susceptible to the impact of oil shocks.

While page 99 ties into the broader book concept of myths of the oil boom, it cannot capture the ultimate message of the book which is that the American oil boom is no replacement for sustainable energy practices. We cannot have long-term energy independence by producing more oil. That can only come by using less fossil fuels. Producing more oil does not deal with some of the fundamental problems of our time which are tied to using oil including conflict, climate change, and transnational terrorism. While pursuing the oil boom makes sense so long as the world is so dependent on oil, there is a danger that the oil boom will make us complacent about the importance of more involved and sustainable energy practices.
Learn more about Myths of the Oil Boom at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue