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Walter Russell Mead: Shale Energy Glee Starts To Spread

Walter Russell Mead, Via Meadia

Euphoria over the energy revolution is continuing to reach the mainstream. Aviezer Tucker has penned an excellent essay in Foreign Affairs arguing that the discovery of alternative energy sources from the U.S. to Poland to India is making the 21st century a better and safer place:

We are moving away from a world dominated by a few energy mega-suppliers, such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, and toward one in which most countries have some domestic resources to meet their energy needs and can import the balance from suppliers in their own neighborhood. This new world will feature considerably lower energy prices, and in turn, geopolitics will hinge less on oil and gas. Within the next five to ten years, regimes that are dependent on energy exports will see their power diminished. No longer able to raise massive sums from energy sales to distribute patronage and project power abroad, they will have to tax their citizens.

For a preview of things to come, consider the U.S. and Russia. As Via Meadia anticipated, Russia is now kicking and screaming to prevent this new energy-rich world from taking shape. Gazprom clients like Poland and Ukraine have discovered enough shale deposits to buy their energy independence, and Russia is doing all that it can to reverse the trend, including financing anti-fracking lobbying groups and pressuring clients not to explore for shale.

Meanwhile, America is helping to spread the revolution far and wide. Energy technology from the U.S. is being transported to Poland, Ukraine and elsewhere, freeing these places from the grip of countries like Russia. A world in which hostile petro-states lose the means to bully their citizens and neighbors is a world that will ultimately serve American interests.

However, while we share the article’s optimism in spades, trouble may be on the horizon. The House of Saud, Chavismo strongmen, and Putin kleptocrats enjoy their lifestyles and won’t let them go quietly. The world that the energy revolution will eventually create is a better one, but the transition needed to get there will be painful; the day that Putin and Abdullah feel their power slipping away is unlikely to be pretty.

“Nevertheless,” as Tucker says, “unconventional energy technology has not only arrived—it is here to stay.” In the end, that’s nothing if not a good thing. Read the whole article here.

Via Meadia, 14 January 2013