Energy Developments in the Middle East

Article excerpt

ECONOMIC CONDITIONS Energy Developments in the Middle East, by Anthony H. Cordesman. Westport, CT and London, UK: Praeger Publishers, in cooperation with the Center for Strategic International Studies, Washington, DC, 2004. xvii + 287 pages. Notes to p. 298. Index to p.308. $55.

This work is a welcome contribution to the growing literature on energy and the Middle East. The volume is an historical, economic, and geopolitical analysis, laden with numerous charts and tables, of the hydrocarbon resources of the Middle East.

One of the most important contributions Cordesman makes in this book is the distinction he draws between direct and indirect dependence. The US reliance on imported oil from the Middle East (i.e., direct dependence) is well established and has been extensively analyzed by many scholars and policy-makers. In contrast, American and global need for large amounts of manufactured goods from Asia and other nations which, themselves, are dependent on Middle East oil (i.e., indirect oil dependence) has not received much attention. Based on this distinction, one can argue that the United States and China (since, 2003, the world's second largest oil consumer after the United States) are not engaged in competition over energy resources in the Middle East and elsewhere to meet their growing demand. In other words, energy policy should not be seen in zero-sum terms. Rather, the continuing expansion of the Chinese economy would benefit American consumers.

To Cordesman's credit, he makes extensive use of what are widely regarded as top sources of information on the global energy market: the Energy Information Administration of the US Department of Energy, British Petroleum, Middle East Economic Survey, and Middle East Economic Digest.

Cordesman agrees with the conventional wisdom that the Middle East has been, and will continue to be, a critical factor in meeting global demand of oil and gas. He underscores the fact that given the global oil market is well integrated, the source of supplies is less important than the availability of enough oil in the market. Accordingly, even if the United States does not buy a single barrel of oil from the Middle East, the region will continue to have a tremendous impact on American and global markets.

Whereas most analysts of the Middle East's hydrocarbon resources focus on oil, refreshingly, Cordesman gives considerable attention and analysis to the region's potential significant role as natural gas producer and exporter. Another welcome aspect of this work is that it situates the analysis of energy issues (i. …