U.S. Interests and Global Natural Resources: Energy, Minerals, Food

U.S. Interests and Global Natural Resources: Energy, Minerals, Food

U.S. Interests and Global Natural Resources: Energy, Minerals, Food

U.S. Interests and Global Natural Resources: Energy, Minerals, Food

Excerpt

If there ever was a golden age when the United States could indulge a dream of economic self-sufficiency, that time has long since passed. For example:

• U.S. oil imports have declined dramatically from their 1977 peak, but still flow at a rate of more than 4 million barrels every day. The price tag exceeds $40 billion annually and is incalculable in terms of national security.

• The United States relies heavily on foreign sources -- some of them of questionable stability -- for a long list of nonfuel minerals. At least for the short run, a few of these minerals are critical ingredients of a high-technology economy.

• Fully one-third of the product of American agriculture is exported to other countries. The United States accounts for nearly 60 percent of the world's total grain trade and exports 10 percent of the world's total consumption of wheat.

International trade in natural resources consists of interwoven threads of demand and supply: that one country's need to buy is another's opportunity to sell makes for a world of mutual dependence and relative stability. But nature did not distribute all resources equally around the globe, and the fact that different societies are at differing stages of economic development further complicates the random distribution of petroleum, or chromium, or temperate climate. Geographic or economic dominance of a market can lead to cartels, market strength coupled with political hostility makes embargoes possible, natural disasters can shut off resource supplies, and wars, revolutions, and terrorism often place the links of trade high on the list of targets.

In such a world, a nation is well advised to identify its vital interests and to develop and establish policies that safeguard those interests. In the fall of 1982, Resources for the Future convened a Forum to define U.S. national interests and examine policies concerning three groups of natural resources that are conspicuous by their importance -- energy, minerals, and food. This volume is a result of that gathering.

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