Woman in water amidst boats

La prochaine vague de réfugiés du pétrole

NAIROBI – L'idée selon laquelle la richesse pétrolière peut être une malédiction ne date pas d'hier. Cette idée mérite sans doute une explication. Le même mécanisme se répète tous les dix ou vingt ans : les prix de l'énergie connaissent des hausses pharamineuses, qui déclenchent une ruée vers de nouvelles sources d'approvisionnement en pétrole. Puis l'offre finit par excéder la demande et subitement, les prix descendent en flammes. Plus la chute est dure et brutale, plus son impact social et géopolitique est lourd.

Le dernier grand flop pétrolier a eu lieu dans les années 1980 et il a changé la face du monde. Durant ma jeunesse, alors que je travaillais sur les champs de pétrole du Texas au printemps 1980, j'ai assisté à une montée des prix de référence du pétrole brut américain à 45 $ le baril, soit 138 $ en dollars d'aujourd'hui. En 1988, le pétrole se vendait à moins de 9 $ le baril, après avoir perdu la moitié de sa valeur durant la seule année 1986.

Les conducteurs trouvaient leur avantage dans la forte chute des prix. Ailleurs cependant, les effets étaient catastrophiques, en particulier en Union soviétique, où l'économie est fortement tributaire des exportations de pétrole. Le taux de croissance du pays a chuté d'un tiers par rapport à son niveau des années 1970. Avec l'affaiblissement de l'Union soviétique, les troubles sociaux se sont amplifiés, pour aboutir à l'automne 1989 à la chute mur de Berlin et à l'effondrement du communisme dans toute l'Europe centrale et dans toute l'Europe de l'Est. Deux ans plus tard, l'Union soviétique n'existait plus.

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