OPINION: The West Can’t Afford to Be Dependent on Petrostates

The United States and Europe should focus foremost on achieving energy independence and disentangling themselves from the values and interests of Riyadh and Moscow.

By Mark Hannah

Europe sweats under record-high summer temperatures as it simultaneously braces for the cold months coming. Last week, the Russian gas company Gazprom announced a drastic cut—down to about 20 percent of capacity—in the flow of gas through the pipeline which supplies Germany. This could make for a catastrophic winter. One recent report grimly explored how Germans might revert to heating their homes with wood.

In the United States, the situation is less severe, though Americans certainly feel the pinch of high energy prices. Polls show voters worry about the rising cost of living, and especially driving costs. So, President Joe Biden reversed his campaign position to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and gave the kingdom’s crown prince a fist-bump and a boost to his status.

Western political leaders will have to get relentlessly creative to accelerate the transition to renewable—and independent—sources of energy. They are unlikely to curb the demand for energy, but they could work toward a future where the developed democracies are not pushed around by weaker but resource-rich autocrats.

How did we end up here?

In 1938, an American company in Saudi Arabia struck oil. As the world industrialized, the kingdom swiftly became a leading oil producer and remains central to the world energy market today, with extraordinary leverage over its security provider, the United States. But Riyadh is not alone in its ability to bend the will of powerful states. Every “superproducer,” including Russia, is able to exert pressure and resist otherwise strong countries.

Read the full article on NationalInterest.com.

This post is part of Independent America, a research project led out by EGF senior fellow Mark Hannah, which seeks to explore how U.S. foreign policy could better be tailored to new global realities and to the preferences of American voters.