George W. Bush speaks with a forked tongue; he speaks dishonestly, and he does it so well. His trip to the Middle East, while giving him an opportunity to strut around with the various heads of government, has also given him the chance to urge the Saudis to up their oil production. Ever the consummate Texan with his swagger and blather, Bush turned from the topic of his peace mission to the topic of oil production.
He craftily made oil the centerpiece of his public communication on Tuesday as he reminded the Saudis that “we” are their biggest consumer, and, gosh, if our economy suffers, it will mean “less purchases, less oil and gas sold.” Never mind his hypocritical talk about conservation. After all, why worry about conservation – just ask our buddies, the Saudis, to increase oil production so we Americans don’t have to think about our energy devouring society and how we can work on becoming energy independent.
The Saudi oil minister, Ali al Naimi, said although Bush raised valid concerns about the effect on the U.S. economy, the Saudis would “raise production when the market justifies it.” Whoops, I think Bush tipped his hand, and he lost. The Saudis aren’t worried about increasing oil production to benefit us.
The biggest reason? China. China has become the world’s fastest growing economy, and they are sucking up energy at an alarming pace. Its middle class, roughly 100 million will increase to 700 million by 2020 – just 12 years away. And, its increasing middle class is developing a taste for the better things in life. China’s citizens are rapidly moving into a society based on consumerism and instant gratification. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no shoving it back in.
With 1.3 billion people, China has four times the population of the United States. China is the second largest consumer of oil, right behind the United States. But, its oil consumption is growing at seven times that of the United States. Today, 58% of China’s oil comes from the Middle East, putting it in direct competition with the United States. The thirst for oil will drive China into co-existence with oil-producing countries – those that are terrorist havens and those that are not. When an energy resource is necessary, stopping to moralize will not be an option.
China’s government thinks nothing of denying its own citizens human rights, so it surely wouldn’t stop to think about how its hunger for energy might impact other nations around the world.
Bush preaches his goal of conservation here, yet all the while begging the Saudis to increase oil production. His tactic didn’t get him very far. But, in his short-term logic, it beats the alternative – that of making the hard choices necessary to curb and redirect our insatiable appetite for oil.
Photo Credit: EIA