Saturday, May 10, 2008

Professor Nacos on the need for divestment from oil

Professor Nacos talks about the need for America to become independent of oil, especially oil from regions of the world, e.g., the Middle East, that compel us into fraught-filled foreign policies:

In his latest column in today’s New York Times, Thomas Friedman addresses once again our dependency on foreign oil and the “need to do everything possible to develop alternatives…” I couldn’t agree more.
I agree with Friedman and Professor Nacos on the need. It's self-evident that the costs and problems associated with our petroleum-based economy have only risen along with our use of oil. However, I believe when Professor Nacos identifies a youth-oriented political movement as the solution, she underestimates the complete depth of our dependency on oil. Our modern world is built with and based upon oil. In my view, only the market, not political protest, can drive the change she and I both would like to see come about:


Professor Nacos,

I believe, ultimately, the market will be the key driver of change. However, the price of oil will have to become much higher for that to happen, because in our current industrialized civilized world, the consumption of petroleum-based products and fuel has become intrinsic in our lives, expectations, and ideas of progress. (Eg, go to a modern hospital and check out what materials and how much energy is used.) Oil isn't a choice - it's a staple. Weaning ourselves from oil would be like weaning recently past civilizations from wood. Right now, the only energy sources that come close to matching oil are nuclear energy and possibly coal.

I support the liberal premises of the Bush Administration's strategy in the War on Terror. At the same time, I've always understood that our 20th-21st century intervention in the Middle East, with the exception of our support for Israel, has been largely based on the strategic and global economic importance of the region's oil supply. With civilization set up the way it is, oil is actually one of the more sensible reasons to deploy our military; stability and favorable relations in that part of the world matter to us a lot.

The difference is that before 9/11, we sought stability in the Middle East through realism. Realism failed us and on 9/11, President Bush converted to liberalism. Now, we're attempting to build a liberal peace rather than settle for the same realist compromises that contributed to so much harm.

I wonder, if we aggressively try to become independent of oil while our global competitors stay on oil, how will that affect our economy's standing in a competitive global market?

Eric

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