Oil is a commodity that will eventually run out, whether society likes it or not. It is not a sustainable resource, and at some point in the future, it will be gone. There are plenty of sources of oil, and it is true that when one looks at the earth’s supply of oil, there is much more to go around until any country has to face the prospect of running out. Still, countries must deal with the prospect that if they continue to use oil in the way they have in the past, oil reserves will be depleted, and they will be left with no options. While this is a problem for the world at large, it is a particular problem within individual countries.

You're lucky! Use promo "samples20"
and get a custom paper on
"Countries and Oil Dependency"
with 20% discount!
Order Now

Many countries are dependent upon oil, and in some of those countries, the national oil reserves are not large enough to support their consumption for many more years. What this means, then, is that these countries will be forced into an untenable situation, having to rely on their neighbors for oil. There are a few different approaches these countries might ultimately take in order to alleviate their problems. This paper argues that countries who are currently dependent upon oil should develop alternative sources of energy because this will both serve the country’s long-term goals and allow them out from under the pressure that comes with leveraging one’s self to another country.

The problem for countries is a very real one, whether they want to deal with it in the current or not. When looking at this debate, the United States is typically cited as the seminal example. This is because the US imports a tremendous amount of oil, and the country is the chief consumer of the world’s oil. America does have its own oil reserves, some that have been discovered and others that are thought to exist at different places in the country. There is no exact figure for how much oil the United States has. Most estimates, including those from the US Energy Information Administration, assert that the United States has reserves of roughly twenty-billion barrels.

There is undiscovered oil that must be added to this, of course, but it is difficult to know how much of that the US actually had. While 20 billion barrels represents just two-percent of the world’s supply, some in the political sphere believe that the actual amount of American reserves is closer to one-quarter of the international supply (Yergin). Whatever one believes, it is clear that America is consuming oil at a rate quicker than most, and the country does not have the supply to sustain this sort of consumption. What this means is that the United States – and many more countries that are in a similar or worse position – will eventually be forced to import oil from foreign sources, a proposition that could cause the United States to lose political power and fall into a difficult situation financially.

There are many reasons why countries should develop alternative sources of energy, not the least of which has to do with the fact that alternative energy sources tend to be better overall for the country. Oil consumption tends to harm the environment, while other alternatives – including solar and wind technology – tend to be better for the environment. Countries that are looking to the long-term need to think about more than just the ways in which their actions matter politically and financially. They must also think about the environmental impact, and it is very clear what effect oil has on countries.

In addition, countries with oil shortages must develop alternatives because not doing so would put those countries into difficult political situations. America depends a lot on its partners around the world. Often, the United States is engaged in political gamesmanship, requiring its allies around the world to join in to the effort. Take the situation in the Middle East, where America and others have been trying to get Iran to stop building up an arsenal of weapons. In that case, the United States has sought to levy sanctions against Iran. The US cannot do this alone, however. It needs to agreement and cooperation of foreign partners in order to make this happen. This brings up an important question in this debate – how can America “convince” its foreign partners to act in accordance with American wishes? Mostly it is because the United States possesses an extreme amount of political capital. The American military is powerful and scary, and America’s economy is the driver of many of the world’s economies. Likewise, America gives so much aid to nations around the world that it can essentially compel their agreement by threatening to take away some form of aid. What is clear about all of this is that America benefits in a major way from the leverage that it can apply in these situations. If America does not develop alternative sources of energy, then it could risk giving away some of its leverage.

America is in no position of need at this point in time. Anything that America truly wants, it has right now. The same is true for many other countries around the world. Those countries try to specifically avoid situations where they have little leverage. Once a country gets into a position where it needs something that it does not have, the country has very little wiggle room. Historically, these situations have not ended well. One can think about the lead-up to American involvement in World War II. America effectively cut off the oil supply to Japan, causing the Japanese economy to falter (Choucri). The Japanese realized at that time that the American efforts had essentially made it impossible for Japan to prosper, and as a result, they planned the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Japan was basically forced into a suicidal act of war against the United States because, without its access to oil, it had no other options. This is not to say that all countries who got into a position of low leverage would end up declaring war on other nations. In the modern age, with the role and influence of the United Nations and NATO, it is unlikely that this would be the result. Nations should not be trying to put themselves in these difficult situations, though. It is much better for countries to avoid having to depend upon other countries for an essential item, as this causes the country in need to surrender all political capital in that particular situation.

In addition, there are sheer financial incentives associated with developing better and alternative technology. On one hand, things like wind energy, being sustainable, would tend to be lower cost, especially after the initial costs of research and development were already paid off. Harnessing types of energy that are essentially free has long been a smart way for countries to move forward, as shown by the revolutionary power of hydro-energy.

Likewise, there exist strong arguments that say countries would be in a very difficult position if they had to import oil from other countries without the benefits of their own reserves. It is true that America and others currently import oil from Canada, Mexico, Russia, and the Middle East. It is also true that America technically does not have to do so. If the prices on that oil climbed too high, America could just tap into its own reserves rather than going the foreign route. This means that America is never trapped in a bad deal just because of necessity. If countries without any of their own oil were required to compete on the global market, they would be gouged with high prices. Imagine what Saudi Arabia might be able to charge the United States if the US had to have oil right away and could have tap into its own. The results would likely be disastrous for those countries without oil, as they would be giving up tremendous value in these transactions. The better approach, it seems, is to go ahead and work out a good solution before the situation becomes so desperate.

There does exist another argument, of course. Some might argue that countries can just continue to depend upon oil because, at least in the case of the United States, they have enough to last for many more decades. After that, this argument would assert, other governments would not price gauge the United States because the US’s economy is so important to the world that any disruption would cause the global markets to collapse. There is some truth to this, of course. In the more globalized financial world, what happens to the United States impacts everyone. This does not mean, though, that a government would abstain from seeking long-term political gain by exploiting America’s weakness. A country might trade some short-term financial volatility for the long-term financial gain of crippling the American economy. This would be especially true of America’s primary geo-political opponents, including Middle Eastern oil sources and Russia.

Likewise, this particular argument would not work for smaller countries that are dependent upon oil. Right now, America is not the only country in this position. In fact, many other countries are in worse positions because they do not have the sizeable reserves that America has. These countries would not be able to throw around their military might or their economic influence in order to command lower prices. They would, in essence, be stuck with whatever they received from the people who did have the oil. For smaller nations, it is even more important to come up with alternative energy sources before it is too late, as failing to do so would produce an environment where they likely could not survive financially.

Oil is a major source of contention, and having oil is one of the primary political advantages that a country can have in this day and age. For those countries that use a lot of oil but do not have a lot of oil, the time is drawing near where their consumption will outpace their supply. This is going to put those countries into a very difficult position at the end of the day. Rather than finding themselves in such difficult positions, these countries should work hard now, while they still have time, to develop alternative sources of energy. This is important because it will enable nations to avoid the difficult geo-political situations that come with giving up leverage, and it will keep these oil-poor countries from getting into financial disaster when they have to pay huge money for oil to the countries that do have oil. While some argue that it is alright to go on with the current prospectus, this is simply kicking the can down the road. Eventually, there will be a conflict, and it is best to avoid that conflict by working on alternative energy now rather than later.