Environmental concerns aside, it didn't used to matter very much that the United States consumed the lion's share of the world's petroleum products. That's because U.S. firms also owned most of the world's oil reserves, or at least had contracts that made them responsible for digging it up and moving it to market.
Of course, environmental concerns should never be put aside. And, increasingly, American-based operations own or control smaller and smaller proportions of the globe's petro pool. Either way, the implications for public policy and private behavior are the same: The use of petroleum products eventually must be curtailed, voluntarily where possible, through government mandates when necessary.
A new report on the world oil market by the investment bank Goldman Sachs details how the United States, which once bestrode the energy world as an unchallenged colossus, is still number one in oil consumption and still home to some of the planet's largest oil companies, topped by Exxon Mobil. But private firms and government operations inBrazil, Russia, India and China have grown from something this side of nothing 15 years ago to hold a third of the market value today, while the U.S. overall share, once more than half, is now a bit less than a third.
So what? Maybe not much. Those countries tend to be rather cash-poor, so perhaps they will always be so desperate to sell us the oil and gas we want that we will never have to worry about the supply being interrupted.
Or maybe we will be so dependent on those other nations that it will really hurt when their rulers decide to punish us for some real or imagined transgression by cutting off our supply, Arab oil embargo-style. Even if they have no motive other than that they need the crude for their own growing economies, it could be a huge shock to the American economy.
Either way, this information about other nations' increasing use, and ownership, of oil reserves and refining capacity is one more reason to see that efficiency and conservation measures, from better automobile standards to increased use of alternative energy sources, are a key to defending America's economy, security and way of life.