“Peak Oil” is the concept that eventually helped usher in the 1973 Energy Crisis. As economic forces and political efforts to preserve domestic petroleum supplies left the US reliant on foreign oil, OPEC nations suddenly discovered they had influence over the world’s largest economy. In turn, the wealth and power of Middle Eastern governments grew with their nations’ oil revenue.
Where reaching peak oil production was something feared by Westerners in the 1970’s, predications that the world has surpassed so-called peak demand for oil should provoke Russian and OPEC governments to prepare for a future where oil no longer sustains their monopoly on power within their own territories and regions.
More than a century of false alarms announcing the forthcoming Peak Oil apocalypse has made it hard to believe oil will never again reach $100 a barrel. Even if these predictions are overzealous, however, this spells trouble for governments that rely on oil revenue. “Black gold” is the cheapest and most plentiful source of hydrocarbons on the planet, so there will always be demand for oil, even if this amazing substance is no longer burned just to push a car a few miles down the road.
While lower oil prices will slow the development and adoption of alternative energy sources by making them less competitive, our technologically advanced world will continue to diversify its energy diet and use that energy more efficiently.
Low-oil prices for the confrontational governments of energy producers like Russia, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela will turn their adversarial relationships with the US and the West into even greater liabilities.
As oil revenue stagnates, these governments will have to reengineer their economies as well as face the decline of their power. Unfortunately, all OPEC countries essentially lack any semblance of real economies that are capable of providing for the needs of their Peoples and supporting their civil infrastructure. Not only is Russia also far too dependent on government spending and oil revenue, it also faces massive corruption issues that undermine its economy.
Consequently, isolation from the Western and Asian-focused global economy is basically a mark of death for the aforementioned governments. Looking at current conflicts like the Syrian Civil War, the Ukraine Crisis, and the overall doings of hardliners in Iran, the outcomes of these crises will determine the future relationships of the nations involved.
In other words, the failure of the Russian government to recant its domineering stance against Ukraine and make amends will push Europe and the US away from Russia at a time when it most needs to have economic ties with the West. Recognizing the weaknesses of the Chinese economy, especially its reliance on trade, and the backlash from its aggressive policies against its neighbors, Russia cannot hope to circumvent Western economic influence.
The same is true for Iran and the Assad regime.
Furthermore, it is widely viewed that the US and Europe would have little interest in the Middle East, if not for the fact that so much oil is there. Frankly, the Middle East is a very difficult and costly place to work, so the diminishing value of energy resources in the Middle East will likely make the region far less of a global priority.
For Israel, this means it is time to resolve its conflict with the Palestinian Peoples. If it does not, it will face a globalizing, democratizing Middle East where the Peoples of the region unite against the wrongs done to the Palestinian People with decreasing certainty of Western backing.
The same is true for Turkey when it comes to its mistreatment of the Kurds and the Armenians.
For all Arab Spring Revolution countries, whether Western foe or friend, the future does not bode well for governments that fail to address the interests of their Peoples.
The Arab Spring Revolutions are often blamed for the widespread instability and violence seen in the Middle East today, but it was the unwillingness of Middle Eastern governments to relinquish power and address the unmet interests of their Peoples that invited the current troubles.
With oil revenue diminishing and Western disinterest rising, the governments of the Middle Eastern will collapse without the support of their Peoples, so it is time for the change that should have happened in the wake of the Arab Spring Revolutions.
Finally, the US and Europe may be threatened by terrorism originating from the Middle East, but the same is true of terrorism and crime originating from South America and Africa, so there will no longer be a need to prioritize the Middle East. It is also important to recognize Western powers often become the targets of extremists, because they intervene in Middle Eastern affairs.
Accordingly, Western powers must be careful to avoid becoming entangled in costly Middle Eastern conflicts. It may be tempting to escalate US intervention in the Syrian Civil War to a full ground war, for example, but this is unnecessary to achieve US interests while it will be futile unless regional powers stop their infighting and the suppression of their Peoples.
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