Oil Dependency Among Nations

The long term prospects of an oil shortage have caused some nations to reconsider their foreign policy objectives. There is talk that some countries, the United States among them, are considering using military force to protect their oil supplies and secure more oil. While most nations have sped up their research into alternative energy sources, the short term demand has forced large industrialized nations to acquire oil at any cost.

Part 1: Set the Stage

  1. Read the following World Without Oil blog posts:
  2. Show the satellite image of the Malacca Straits:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Asia_satellite_
  3. You are probably much more familiar with security troubles in the Middle East, in places such as Yemen: http://miawithoutoil.livejournal.com/1263.html

Part 2: Take Action
  1. After reading the articles above answer the following question: Is the oil crisis making the U.S. more insecure?
  2. Does China have the right to militarily control a waterway in Indonesia? Why or why not? You might want to compare China's view about the Straits of Malacca and the U.S.'s view about the Strait of Hormuz :
  3. Now consider the actions of the United States in the game.  What are the differences and similarities between the actions taken by China and the United States? Should a single powerful nation control a resource simply because it has the military might to defend its actions?

Part 3: Lesson Activity
  1. Using a blank outline map of the world, find and label the world's top 15 oil-producing nations. EIA 2006 information: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/topworldtables1_2.htm
    • Determine approximately how far the oil has to travel before it reaches the United States. Do oil tankers have to go through any treacherous waters to get to the United States?
    • Are all of these oil-producing countries currently friendly to the U.S.?
  2. How much oil do the top 15 oil-producing nations actually sell to the U.S.? United States oil imports by nation:  http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_

  3. You'll notice on the chart used in (2) that oil exported to the United States by a given country usually varies considerably from year to year (Saudi Arabia is a good example). This is because oil is a fungible product, and producers generally sell their oil to whoever is willing to pay the highest price. What implications does this have during an oil crisis? Will the fast-growing economies of developing countries such as China and India compromise the ability of the United States to bid successfully for oil?
  4. The U.S. currently uses far more oil than any other nation (see http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_oil_con-
    ) and an average American consumes twice as much oil as an average Italian. German or British citizen (see http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/
    ). Will this factor into decisions about who receives oil in the event of a global oil shortage?
  5. A nation's oil reserves typically have little immediate effect on an oil crisis, because nations are unable to retrieve the oil quickly. But over time oil reserves may be very important for a nation's influence and power. Compare your labeled world map with the Who Has The Oil? map at http://www.civicactions.com/sites/home2.civicactions.net/
    .  If you consider proximity, does the United States need be worried about the fast-paced industrialization of India and China?
  6. Outline three foreign policy goals for the United States that revolve around the issue of oil.
Part 4: Reflect
The United States, China, Western Europe, and India have significant oil needs, and alternatives to oil will take years or decades to develop. While the nations of the world will find In the meantime, much of the oil supply for the United States has to travel vast distances. In this reflection the you should consider the following questions:

Part 5: Take It Further
Oil and energy-related situations arise throughout the world on a regular basis.  Many of the major oil producing nations of the world face domestic turmoil that could affect the price and the availability of petroleum.  To take it further today, go and explore oil-related current events.  Visit the Energy Bulletin Web site (http://www.energybulletin.net/) and select a region outside North America.  Look for news articles about countries that supply the United States with oil.  In your blog, summarize and analyze the importance of this information to the United States. What do these current events suggest might happen in an oil crisis?

Additional Resources
Energy Security   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_security
Energy Security   http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/security/


Independent Lens Electric Shadows Independent Television Service Corporation for Public Broadcasting Ken Eklund, Writerguy