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The development of North America’s unconventional resources is positively affecting global politics, says Dr. Condoleezza Rice.
Three major shocks have roiled the world in the past decade or so: the 9/11 attack, the global financial crisis, and Arab Spring, said Dr. Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, speaking at Hart Energy’s DUG Conference & Exhibition in Fort Worth. As these events have unfurled, they have shaken Americans’ faith in their country and hurt the standing of the United States in the world community.
“On 9/11, a group of stateless terrorists from the failed state of Afghanistan came across, and probably at a cost of about $300,000, brought down the World Trade Center and blew a hole in the Pentagon and threatened America like it had not been threatened since the War of 1812,” said Rice. The 9/11 terrorist attack changed forever America’s concept of physical security. “We realized we had to be concerned not so much with great powers but with failed states, failing states and ungoverned spaces.”
The 2008 global financial crisis still reverberates throughout the world. “That shock changed American’s conception of what constitutes economic prosperity and security,” she said. “Americans were living in homes they could not afford, and homes that were worth less than what they owed.”
The third great shock was the Arab Spring. In Rice’s view, the upheaval in the Middle East was caused by rigid, authoritarian regimes that refused to peacefully transfer power to their citizens. Unlike big, multi-ethnic democracies such as Brazil and India that can change politicians and policies peacefully, the Arab states were ruled by dictators or monarchs that used repression and fear to keep their people in line.
“If men and women are denied the ability to change their circumstances peacefully they will do it by force,” said Rice. “When fear is what separates the authoritarian from his people, and that breaks down, all that stands between the dictator and his people is anger. That’s a terrible way to make political reform. And what we are seeing in the Middle East is when political reform comes too late.”
Rice’s concern is that we are in for a rocky ride in the Middle East, a volatile and most crucial region, because extremists are coming to the fore. The U.S. should be encouraging the remaining monarchies in the Middle East, in such countries as Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, to move to constitutional monarchy. “We do have some ability to influence these events, and we do have important friends in the Middle East who need to reform,” she said.
National energy security is a key part of dealing with the three shocks. “For a long time, we are going to be dependent on hydrocarbons and on petroleum-based products. We need to do everything we can to develop clean sources, and to make certain we are leaving nothing on the table in terms of what we can develop in North America,” she said.
And, thanks to the technological revolution that has unleashed abundant supplies of unconventional resources, the next Secretary of State could indeed be dealing with a world where energy independence is within America’s reach.
Certainly, problems in the Middle East would not be over. “But to be able to deprive some of the world’s worse actors of that great source of money--and therefore the ability to export their trouble--would make a tremendous difference to our security and our future.”
The United States has had a view of how human history ought to unfold, and that view is of free markets and free people. “I am optimistic that we will get hold of our fiscal circumstances at home, deal with our economic growth and take advantage of the tremendous gift that is before us of energy independence,” said Rice.
“If indeed we are able fully to put together a policy that marries economic growth, alternative energy sources and unconventional hydrocarbons, and do it from a North American platform that includes Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, geopolitics will be changed forever.”
And America’s oil and gas industry, with its inventiveness and technological sophistication, will have helped make that happen.