‘A welcome new world’
BEAVER CREEK — We were in Iraq, and are again.
“People are asking, ‘We still have to do this? Where are our allies and why aren’t they stepping up?’” asked Dr. Condoleezza Rice.
Rice opened this year’s Vail Global Energy Forum with a dazzling display of depth and deftness that left the audience asking questions like, “If she’s going to be NFL commissioner anyway, can’t we just put her in charge of the rest of the world, too?”
“She’s talked about as a potential presidential candidate, but more often as the commissioner of the NFL,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who introduced her.
It needs to be us
We really are all in this together, and if the United States doesn’t lead, then someone else will, Rice said.
“The international system — and it is a system — does not run without a great power willing to assert itself,” Rice said. “We step back and a Putin and an ISIS step forward,” she said. “ISIS is so radical, Al Qaeda expelled them.”
“If we do step back, we will pay for it,” she said.
People think what comes out of the ground is ours and that we should hold onto it. Not so, she said. It’s fuel for the global economic engine.
“What comes out of the ground is an input for an international economy upon which we depend for growth,” Rice said.
Rice has been a Stanford University professor since 1981, which, she joked, means they hire faculty at age 11. She worked in the administrations of both Bush presidents. Her wide-ranging discussion covered the geopolitics of oil, gas and energy as though she has been everywhere and negotiated everything, which, of course, she has.
“I have never seen anything warp diplomacy like $147 oil,” Rice said. “Russia was playing all kinds of energy games because of European dependence on natural gas. The price of oil and the cost of energy warped even food prices.”
She’s no fan of the deal of the nuclear deal the Obama administration is cutting with Iran, with its sunset clauses and its moving-target number of uranium-enriching centrifuges.
“I’m very concerned about this deal. I think we could have waited. Negotiating the number of centrifuges is simply negotiating about price. Never negotiate with the Iranians about price,” Rice said. “There’s a reason the Iranians are at the bargaining table. The sanctions are working, but so is the low price of oil.”
Eighty percent of the Russian economy is based on oil gas and minerals, and that’s based on oil that costs $103 a barrel. Friday’s price was $45.
“The fact that Russia has not diversified will create enormous problems,” Rice said. “I know Vladimir Putin really well. He sees himself as reuniting Russia with greatness.”
The international system feels a bit unstable, as if the world is reeling off its axis, because there have been series of shocks during the past few years.
“The tectonic plates are moving. One thing we don’t’ need is an energy crisis to bring it all to a head,” she said.
She pointed to what she called the Three Es for global stability.
Environmental sustainability: “As much as renewables will be a part of this mix, we will be dependent on hydrocarbons for a long time to come,” she said.
Energy security: “We have an energy supply that will be resistant to oil and gas as a weapon. That’s security,” she said.
With a stable North American energy platform — Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, we have a place that is not going to use oil and gas as a weapon, she said.
“I feel the Keystone pipeline must be built. Some people insist it benefits only the Canadians. The Canadians thought they were allies,” she said.
The State Department has done three environmental studies that say there is no problem with the Keystone pipeline, she said.
On the other hand, “The low price of oil might cause people not to invest in the energy diversity we need,” she said.
“We’re in a new and different world than we had when I was secretary of state. It’s a welcome new world,” she said.