Energy Kingdoms: Oil and Political Survival in the Persian Gulf.

AuthorFitzgerald, Timothy

Energy Kingdoms: Oil and Political Survival in the Persian Gulf, by Jim Krane (Columbia, 2019) 172 pages, ISBN 978-0231179300.

In the latest contribution to the Columbia Center for Global Energy Policy Series, Jim Krane unpacks the tight interconnections between oil and political power in the Gulf Coordination Council (GCC) countries. Dominated by Saudi Arabia, but with substantial coverage of the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain, Krane traces the evolution of energy politics of the six monarchies in a critical region for the global energy system. While there are plenty of books about the history and economics of the Middle East, this volume is unique in its focus on the energy-political complex of the Gulf countries. The latitude and affluence afforded by energy abundance led to a series of political bargains that increased domestic energy consumption without a price mechanism, and have thus embedded those high consumption patterns and created a policy conundrum for the countries in the region.

As a journalist, Krane reported from oil-exporting countries in the Middle East. His 2009 book, "City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism," established his reputation as a leading scholar of the region. In 2013 he joined Rice University's Baker Institute as the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies, where he continues to work on geopolitical and economic issues.

In important ways, Energy Kingdoms builds from Krane's 2015 article in The Energy Journal in which he outlined the fundamental tension that energy subsidies create for an exporter--they might be politically expedient in the short run but undermine export capacity in the long run. Expanding the original insight to book length, Krane packs an impressive amount of information and analysis into 172 pages. He traces how the energy political economy of the Gulf evolved. The first two chapters are not especially novel, covering the well-trod ground of the pre-oil economy and how the discovery of oil initially changed the political landscape. It didn't, or at least not very much. However, that background is necessary as the story pivots in chapter 3 to "The Big Payback" in the 1970s when the Arab states established greater economic sovereignty over their fossil resources. That change required a renegotiated political and economic contract. The huge wealth inflow from higher prices and government take enabled a massive redistribution of rents and geopolitical...

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