Russia might regain its old position as a superpower on the basis of its oil and natural gas holdings alone. Verleger cites a 2006 article in the Financial Times that suggests this is very much on President Vladimir Putin's mind. "As a city official in St. Petersburg," Neil Buckley wrote in the FT, "he studied part time at the city's State Mining Institute and wrote a dissertation entitled 'Mineral Raw Materials in the Strategy for Development of the Russian Economy.' In it he argued Russia's rich natural resource base would secure not only its economic future but also its international position."
So let the presidential contenders begin their debate on energy independence, or at least an energy policy. With oil at $70 a barrel and moving upward, energy alternatives are more feasible. Pickens mentions ethanol and biodiesel. His favorite is nuclear, as he noted this month in the Dallas Business Journal. "It's clean. There have been no accidents with it, and you can get rid of the waste." He calls it the "fuel of the future."
Peak production of oil, however, is here and now. The world consumes 30 billion barrels of oil annually. Producers have not been able to replace 30 billion barrels of oil into the world oil supply since 1985. There are no vast reservoirs of oil left. Simple market forces are going to coax the United States toward oil alternatives. In the meantime, however, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran are going to be prospering from our oil purchases, and Russia may emerge as a superpower.