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The Shocks of a World of Cheap Oil

Courtesy Reuters

THE NEW GEOPOLITICS OF ENERGY

Oil prices have been flirting recently with $25-$30 per barrel, levels almost reminiscent of the oil shocks of the 1970s. Rising energy prices have been accompanied by the usual hysteria about dwindling supplies and potentially dangerous transfers of wealth, tempting policymakers to consider ways of dealing with a coming oil crisis. But contrary to much received wisdom, the energy problem looming in the early 21st century is neither skyrocketing prices nor shortages that herald the beginning of the end of the oil age. Instead, the danger is precisely the opposite; long-term trends point to a prolonged oil surplus and low oil prices over the next two decades.

Paradoxically, this scenario of plenty could destabilize oil-producing states, especially those in the ellipse stretching from the Persian Gulf to Russia. And although the economies of the United States and oil-importing developing nations would by and large benefit,

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