Jeune Afrique, France
By Marwane Ben Yahmed
Translated By Marcela Schaefer
19 November 2012
Edited by Laurence Bouvard
France - Jeune Afrique - Original Article (French)
The decline of the American empire may not be immediate after all. Certain events make a lot of noise and elicit strong reactions, but have no tomorrow. Others hardly get a response, but are messengers of immense changes. The announcement on November 12 by the International Energy Agency that the United States could become the world’s leading producer of hydrocarbon by 2020 (and energy self-sufficient by 2035) merits our full attention. This hypothesis (for various reasons this prediction must be taken with a pinch of salt) constitutes a real geopolitical, economic and environmental big bang.
This is a revolution in the global energy landscape and thus in power relations between the giants of the planet – largely due to the exponential development of production of unconventional black gold, especially oil and gas shale. The American reserves in this area are colossal: a veritable chain of fields stringing between California, the Dakotas, Colorado, Utah, Montana and Texas. There are direct internal consequences: the American economy will have promising days ahead (competitive gain, energy cost reduction, etc.). On a global scale, the almost visceral inclination of the United States for isolationism could be significantly reinforced. Less dependent upon barrels from the Middle East, Africa or elsewhere, the police – but also the donors – of the world could actually withdraw and demand that the Europeans or the Asians take over their responsibilities and rid them of a burden that they only accepted to defend their strategic interests. The IEA foresees, for example, that by 2035 Asia will absorb the very large majority of hydrocarbon exports from the Middle East. The list of disruptions, large or small, in foreign policy is almost infinite.
Last but not least, the environment. The exploitation of these deposits of the future is laden with threats. Firstly, those related to the techniques used: the soils and the underground or surface waters will not escape unscathed. The lands necessary to produce working fields are not trivial. Far from it, they will compete with lands that should be allocated to housing, agriculture, industry, transportation and so on. Finally, in the absence of constraints relative to the necessity of extracting fossil fuels in the process of rarefaction, it is likely that efforts around the subject of saving energy, which already wasn’t the cup of tea of the United States, China or India, among others, will be postponed indefinitely. Like the French author and poet Paul Valery wrote, entering the future by moving backwards.
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