he oil-rich lament

The world is currently caught up in the middle of an energy crisis. Rising higher than they did during the Persian Gulf War, oil prices have sparked protests throughout Europe and the Middle East in recent weeks and have taken the blame for a $31.89 billion U.S. trade deficit. It is extraordinary that despite these occurrences, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which represents the interests of oil producers, is now demanding that nations actually compensate them if oil consumption plummets as a result of proposed U.N. environmental regulations.
OPEC officials announced their demands last week near the end of an international conference organized to iron out differences between nations who have signed, but not ratified, the Kyoto Protocol. The treaty would require all signatories to cut their carbon-dioxide emissions and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases 10 percent by 2012. Obviously, oil consumption would diminish as more environmentally friendly cars — such as hybrids and fuel cells — replace vehicles that only use internal combustion engines. From the perspective of oil-exporting nations, as oil and other fossil fuels are gradually eliminated as energy sources, their primary source of income will some day become worthless.
While many of these countries have grown rich from their oil, they have few other industries or job opportunities. The shift away from oil will mean that millions will someday find themselves without work.
Although the oil-producing nations’ requests are not totally unreasonable, one must ask why these governments have not already formulated plans and begun to shift their work force away from oil. If oil-rich nations are aware of the probable transition away from our present reliance on oil, plenty of time remains for them to use their resources to implement change.
Even if granted compensation, OPEC governments would be unable to indefinitely survive with that money alone. Inevitably, the industrial nations footing the bill would decide that they had sufficiently compensated the oil producers for the lost revenue, forcing the affected countries to eventually shift away from oil production into other industries, anyway. By making preparations and beginning a gradual industrial shift now, oil-producing nations will help ensure a smooth transition for their economies.
OPEC’s demands for compensation also reveal its shortsightedness. Instead of simply seeking money, the oil producers should have asked industrial nations for their expertise and assistance with the transition away from oil, providing a more substantive and long-term solution. As various industries continue to grow across the planet, the petroleum-producing nations will not find themselves left behind and could successfully shift into new fields.
Surely OPEC is looking out for itself by requesting compensation. What OPEC members fail to realize, however, is that they are seeking a short-term solution for a long-term problem. As the devastation caused by greenhouse gases becomes clearer, oil-guzzling nations must begin to make the transition away from fossil fuels, and the oil producers will have little choice but to follow.