Tom Friedman, in his new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, makes a pretty powerful argument that the US’s addiction to oil helps finance fundamentalist Islam and represses democracy. The main point: Having oil means dictators can finance repressive institutions (police etc.) and bribe the populace into apathy.
Here is a graphical telling of the same story:
Looks pretty persuasive to me. Tom Friedman argued for a "patriotic" gas tax in the US back in 2001. Seems as good an idea now as it was then. (Chart from Daily Galaxy, via Jon Udell)
Tom also says that no country with more than 50% of its income from oil is a democracy. I am not totally sure of the numbers here, but I wouldn’t call Norway undemocratic. Update, thanks to Twit from mgjosefsen: Norwegian exports of oil and natural gas was 52% of total Norwegian exports in 2005. Share of GNP was about 25 %. We seem to be an exception, in other words.
There are fundamental problems with this graphic and the message behind this.
1 – Basically it does not measure total energy reserves (vs Coal, Tars Sands, etc)
2 – Why is the US one country and the EU many?
3 – It does not show current production
4 – It does not energy use growth
Friedman’s comment on the democracy is somewhat accurate, but it really a subset of the resource curse. Oil, Gold, Diamonds etc are curses for developing country because they allow for private rewards that are not directly related to the electorate.
A gas tax hike just isn’t going to happen. Eighty-five percent of Americans oppose it. Why not drilling or nuclear power? Because Friedman’s real agenda has nothing to do with terrorism or democracy.