Behind the economic crisis, one of the biggest concerns in the United States is energy. As environmental and foreign policy concerns over oil continue to increase we are turning our attention towards developing alternative sources of energy. This is certainly a noble goal for many reasons but, as with just about everything, there are potentially serious ancillary effects of a dramatic shift in energy policies.
A New York Times article today talked about a warning by the Saudi Oil Minister, Ali al-Naimi. Al-Naimi warned that a push for alternative energy that happens too quickly could affect the ability for oil producing countries to make long term plans in developing oil sources. He warned that uncertainty as to oil demands from Western countries that consume a lot of oil could affect future supply and leave an energy shortfall that alternative energy resources won't be able to make up. This would leave the world with not enough oil or alternative energy to meet its needs.
Essentially, al-Naimi wants a very slow development of alternative energies. Of course, major oil producers would like to see no development of alternative energy because a move toward alternatives would seriously affect the economies of those countries. This is clearly a self-serving, although completely understandable, desire by these countries, but what other kinds of affects could a move towards alternative energy have?
It's no secret that most oil producing countries are in the Middle East. It's also no secret that the Middle East is an area that breeds its fair share of terrorists. If alternative energy development leads to the degradation of Middle Eastern economies it could lead to a proliferation of terrorists. It's possible that if Middle Eastern economies and governments collapse then violent and religiously radical groups could step in to fill the vacuum. Also, the collapse of those economies due to the fact that Western countries ceased to by oil could create animosity amongst those living in the Middle East that the West abandoned them as soon as oil was no longer needed. This animosity could become a vital ingredient in creating more terrorists, thus increasing the risk of terrorist attacks.