Iran Is Key to Deciding America’s Energy Future
Posted by alanmirs on June 18, 2011
12:00 AM, JUN 18, 2011 • BY IRWIN M. STELZER
If you are an oil trader, the daily jiggles in the price of oil are of interest: if you guess right, it’s champagne and caviar; if you bet wrong, it’s beer and potato chips. But if you are a policy maker trying to make sense of oil markets so that you can plan your nation’s energy security, or an airline executive trying to compute just how large a premium you should pay for a more fuel efficient engine, you need some basis for a longer-run view.
That is now less easy to come by than it was a few months ago. Earlier this month the political balance of power in OPEC, the 12-member cartel of oil producers, shifted. Whatever else consuming countries think of Saudi Arabia and its role as the principal funder of Wahabi ideology and associated terrorism, they rely on the Saudis to pump more oil when prices rise to levels that threaten the prosperity of industrialized nations. One international oil industry executive tells me that the perception that the Saudis are able to cap prices keeps them off the list of regimes marked for change. He adds that the Saudis wildly overstate their ability to step up output so that consumer countries, and especially the United States, will continue to support a regime as odious as others marked by the U.S. for regime change.
The problem for consuming countries is that Saudi Arabia no longer calls the tune to which other OPEC members dance. At the regular OPEC meeting earlier in the month, Ali Nami, the Saudi oil minister, called for stepped-up output to roll back crude prices lest the sputtering U.S. and European economies be tipped into recession. This was partially in response to an International Energy Agency estimate that there will be “a clear need” for more oil to meet demands later in the year.
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