I thank H-Net for inviting this response to the review of my book. I just have two points to make.
First, as the review correctly notes, the ultimate takeaway of the book is that the American oil boom, while yielding some important benefits, is no replacement for sustainable energy practices. We sometimes forget or don’t understand that producing more oil is not the same as using less when it comes to security. We cannot have long-term energy security by just producing more oil. Producing more oil does not address the fundamental problems of our time which are tied to using oil including conflict, climate change, autocratic rule, energy coercion, and transnational terrorism. While pursuing the oil boom makes sense so long as the world is so dependent on oil, there is a danger that the oil boom will make us complacent about pursuing sustainable energy practices.
Second, with energy so crucial to modern life, and with so many security and economic issues riding on how we deal with energy, we would expect to see many comprehensive studies of oil in our modern world. But that is not the case. While stock market gurus and analysts are almost obsessed with oil, it remains a remarkably neglected feature in the study of American and global security by academics. As I have shown in my Oxford University Press bibliography on the best books on oil, relatively little research exists on oil in the field of political science relative to other subjects as suggested by the dearth of articles in journals. Outside of political science, myriad works do examine specific aspects of our global oil dependency, but little work, much less updated analysis, explores comprehensively subjects such as why we have made little progress on decreasing dependence on oil and what our prospects are for actually meeting our future climate and security goals—the subject of my current book project. As the reviewer also suggests, that general neglect represents a remarkable gap and one that we should try to fill, especially given that in the recent TRIP survey, scholars of international relations identify climate change and other issues related to oil as the most important issues we face.
Steve A. Yetiv
Louis I. Jaffe Professor of International Relations
Old Dominion University
I'm teaching a course right now on the geopolitics of energy and the environment in Germany, and over the past week or so we have been discussing the very issues concerned in Prof. Yetiv's book. While I did not utilize excerpts from his book this time, I would definitely consider using it if teaching this course again.
There is a very noticeable shift in tone in political science and IR studies on America and global energy before and after 2010. Before 2010 there is much doom and gloom and an almost sense of panic that America was running out of oil and gas and would be ever more dependent on foreign supplies, which would put America in direct competition with the seemingly exponential demand from China. But then the "unconventional revolution" happens, and the tone becomes heady with the possibilities for the future. It is interesting how many analysts and political scientist/IR people in the immediate flush of the boost in unconventional oil and gas production were talking up the possibility of US disengagement from the Middle East, and other elements of the "myths" of the oil boom.
I wonder how much of it reflected an optimistic interpretation of the "Obama Doctrine", or perhaps was rooted in a euphoric sense of relief after the period of peak oil, high prices, and scarcity fears? Perhaps such optimism can only be rewarded (and partially at that) if other countries in the world, particularly in Europe and China, were to have their own unconventional revolution, though this is highly unlikely in the case of Europe. As Prof. Yetiv eloquently points out, such optimism is for the short-term.
Editor/Book Review Editor, H-Energy
As a personal note, this book was also particularly interesting to me because I live in Europe, and here the talk about the American shale revolution arrived as a far echo of something vaguely interesting happening in the US. Rather than a revolution, in Europe it had mostly negative connotations because it would slow down investments towards renewable energy sources. Some hailed a possible EU shale revolution, but it was a minority. I was not aware that the debate in the US was so pumped up.
I have been working on the history of energy politics for the past 5 years and I agree that the lack of literature on the matter is quite surprising. I think the problem is that oil is treated as a hot topic not only by the media, but by scholars: big titles on resource control and the resource curse attract the attention more than analyses on energy markets and the power relations of energy companies and international politics - which are also extremely difficult to correctly interpret from the outside. However, my two penny opinion on why there has not been more effort to reduce dependency on oil is that there is so much international power and so much money around the oil industry that it is easier to reason in terms of scrambling to control this system rather than demystify it. Socially we also prioritize a continuous cheap flux of infinite energy, so that even temporary scarcity is perceived like the apocalypse (1973 seems like the end of the world sometimes, even though we are all still here); and the financialisation of oil companies is giving the final blow to alternative investments.
(Just as a final note, historically the U.S. WAS the largest world supplier of oil, until the late 1940s)
Dr. Yetiv is correct to lament the lack of solid scholarship on oil and energy issues among political scientists. As for historians, I would strongly recommend the special issue of the Journal of American History on oil (vol. 99, June 2012). Robert Lifset has edited a very useful book on US oil policy in the 1970s. The special issue of the German journal Historical Social Research (vol. 39/4, 2014) is also a good guide to historical studies. Still, the absence of awareness about the importance of energy issues among scholars of most fields is a problem.
I am not sure what Dr. Musso means by "supplier of oil." The United States was the leading producer of oil for most of the 19th century, and, after a brief interval when Russia was the leading producer, again for the first three quarters of the 20th century. Depending on which source one uses, the Soviet Union overtook the United States as the leading producer somewhere in the mid-1970s. Of course, it has since regained the leading spot. I have first year students in my class on Oil and World Power chart the leading producers and consumers from the early 20th century to the present. It is a very useful exercise.