Saturday, November 1, 2014
7

互助世界中的能源独立

美国剑桥—20世纪70年代初,在尼克松总统表示希望能够保证国家能源独立的时候,美国有四分之一的原油需要进口。20世纪70年代末,在经历了阿拉伯石油禁运和伊朗革命以及国内石油产量的下跌后,美国原油进口比例上升到了50%,而油价上涨了15倍。当是时,人们相信美国的天然气很快就要开采殆尽了。

能源冲击助长了经济增长停滞和通货膨胀的致命组合,自尼克松以来,每一任美国总统都会把能源独立作为目标。但没人把这个目标当回事。

如今,能源专家再也笑不出来了。根据美国能源信息局(US Energy Information Administration)的说法,到2020年,美国所消费的原油中将有近一半产自国内,其中又有82%来自大西洋沿岸。著名能源分析师维尔莱格(Philip Verleger)指出,到2023年,即尼克松提出“独立计划”50周年之际,美国将实现能源独立——其能源出口将超过进口。

维尔莱格认为,能源独立“可能将世界带入新美国世纪(New American Century),形成一个美国能够以比世界其他地方低得多的成本获得能源的经济环境”。如今,欧洲和亚洲的天然气价格已经比美国高出了4—6倍。

到底发生了什么?水平钻井和水压致裂技术——对页岩和其他深层低渗透岩石施以水轰和化学物质轰击——释放了大量新的天然气和原油供给。2005—2010年间,美国页岩气产业年增长率高达45%,页岩气占美国天然气总产量的比重从4%上升到了24%。

据估计,美国的天然气足够以当前产量开采一百年。其他国家也拥有相当可观的页岩气储量,但问题重重,比如中国存在水资源短缺问题,阿根廷存在投资安全性问题,欧洲国家存在环境约束问题,等等。

美国经济将因能源供给的变化而获得数不尽的好处。现在已经形成了数十万个工作岗位,其中一些是在原本萧条的边远地区。由此产生的经济活动的增加将提振总体GDP增长,产生大量新财政收入。此外,能源进口支出下降将使美国贸易赤字减少,国际收支平衡状况改善。一些行业(如化工和塑料行业)将在生产成本方面获得巨大的比较优势。

事实上,据国际能源署估计,确保页岩气井的环境安全性所需要的附加预防措施——包括密切关注地震条件、合适的密封通风井以及合理的废水管理等——只会带来7%的额外成本。

不过,从气候变化角度看,更依赖页岩气的结果很不好说。天然气燃烧所产生的温室气体要小于煤和石油等化石燃料,因此页岩气称得上通往减少碳密集程度的捷径。但是低气价会妨碍新能源资源的开发,除非后者能得到补贴或碳税的支持。

现阶段,我们只能预测地缘政治影响。显然,美国经济的坚挺将强化美国的经济实力——这与当前流行的美国衰落论背道而驰。

但下结论不能操之过急。能源进出口的平衡只是通往能源独立的第一步。我在近著《实力的未来》(The Future of Power)中指出,全球互助性既具有敏感性,也具有脆弱性。如果美国能源进口量有所减少,那么从长期看它的脆弱性将会减小,但石油是一种可替代商品,而美国经济仍然对世界油价的突然变化所带来的冲击非常敏感。

换句话说,沙特革命或是封锁霍尔木兹海峡之类的事件仍旧可能对美国及其盟友造成严重伤害。因此,即使美国在中东没有其他利益(比如以色列或核不扩散),能源进出口平衡也不会让美国从保护该地区石油运输线的军费开支(一些专家估计高达每年500亿美元)中解脱出来。

与此同时,美国在国际政治上的讨价还价地位应能得到优化。实力来自不对称的互助性。你我可以相互依赖,但如果你需要我甚于我需要你,那么我的讨价还价实力就会见涨。

几十年来,美国和沙特存在一种不对称的平衡,我们依赖他们作为见机行事的石油生产者,而他们依赖我们作为最终军事安全力量。

类似地,俄罗斯控制着天然气供给和管线,从而扼住了欧洲及其小国邻邦的咽喉。随着北美在天然气上成为自给自足地区,其他众多地区将能腾出手来为欧洲提供替代资源,从而削弱俄罗斯的优势。

在东亚——美国外交政策的新焦点——中国将日渐依赖中东的石油。美国说服中国逐渐参与地区安全安排的努力将会更受重视,而中国将意识到其能源供给线在发生冲突的不可能事件时将受到美国海军的干扰,这两个方面将对双方讨价还价实力形成微妙影响。

能源进出口平衡并不会产生纯粹的依赖性,但确实会改变能源互助所带来的实力对比。在这一点上,尼克松是对的。

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  1. CommentedSugandha Pahwa

    this will be a giant leap to [fast forwarded] macro economics without nuclear proliferation. i just believe the soveriegnity over national "resources" is the giant leap. Not the borders, i can actually see unmanned borders.

  2. CommentedNathan Coppedge

    I was under the impression that oil was a major reason for the conflict in the Middle East. Fluctuations in gas prices almost always seem to be altered by so-called "political influences" in the Arab world, and U.S. prices have been affected by a strong "charity" approach which provides a cushion by pouring huge amounts of capital onto what was originally merely an "energy" issue. The relationship of the U.S. to oil borders on metaphysical, and so it is no wonder that there are gaping military expenses which, while industrial or quasi-permanent in nature, are well in excess of what you mention in your article. I wouldn't be surprised if 50 billion dollars is miniscule compared to the real expense of running aircraft carriers, buying rocket fuel, building missiles, and paying for infantry on passive duty, to say nothing of outright conflict involving vast mobilizations. Much like the domestic economy, what I might call the military economy is not something accurately accounted in the minds of common citizens.

  3. CommentedThomas Granado

    Professor, you nailed it, but to complete the analysis you must give more stock to the opposition. First, there is significant industrial opposition to exportation of gas -- those who benefit greatly from low electricity and feedstock costs (petrochemicals, steel). Second, while the environmental community is split, the anti-Keystone crew is adamant about renewables over hydrocarbons. Damn the economics; for them it's a zero sum game. The evident risk: DOE is holding up export approvals to non-FTA countries while Australia is pressing forward.

  4. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    The title is an interesting oxymoron.
    Indeed the question is can we achieve any kind of independence in an interdependent world?
    This article focuses on energy supplies alone, trying to propose political and economical gains from an assumed energy independence.
    But we are interdependent on multiple levels not only in terms of politics, financial institutions, energy supplies or the usual measures we like to use these days, but on all levels of our lives.
    And we are not only interdependent within the global human society but humanity itself is an integral part of the larger circle of nature surrounding us.
    Even this articles touches upon possible negative environmental effects of increased shale gas production which we have very little information about.
    Also switching from crude oil to gas only postpones the inevitable questions how constant quantitative growth would be possible in a closed, finite system.
    Is it really possible, even just looking at it from political or economical point of view, for a single country to surge ahead of others in a global, interdependent system when others stagnate or fall into crisis?
    As long as we keep concentrating on individual, national benefits only caring about the interdependent system in terms of how we can benefit from it regardless of others, or about environmental consequences (both of which goes against the natural laws of governing interdependent systems), or as long we keep ignoring the very reasons why we need increasing, never ending energy supplies to fuel our insatiable economic model, we will not find long or even short term solutions for our present problems, rather we will create more and newer problems like a drunk person driving on without sobering out recognizing where he is and where he should be going.
    All over the world we keep escaping forward without examining the real causes for the global crisis, but in the global, closed, interdependent system we exist in today we cannot cheat much longer.

  5. CommentedMarshall Kaplan

    Finally some one got it right. Natural gas will play a much more important role in our fuel mix in the future than in the past. Energy independence, however, is not quite an accurate goal and suggest separation. Reducing oil dependence is more accurate . what we need to do is to reduce the monopolistic conditions governing oil and gasoline markets for transportation and allow for flex fuels like natural gas and its derivative methanol. safe..environmentally better., less costs..Let consumers choose. M Kaplan see Over the Barrel at www.fuelfreedom.org

  6. CommentedAkash Kaura

    USA is becoming increasingly energy independent, and China has significant reserves as well. This would pose a significant concern for India, would it not? Would this mean the India will need to make the transition to a knowledge based economy quicker than anticipated/planned? Looking at, and exploiting, alternative energy resources will require significant R&D which requires the fulfillment of 2 major pre-conditions:
    1. Presence of sufficient educated professionals
    2. Enough investment.
    Considering the current situation, would this mean that if India fails to make the transition in time, the future is not very bright?

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