By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: Forethought about energy, food price crises

There was a fascinating, and somewhat scary, story on the front page of the weekend edition of London's Financial Times (one of the world's great newspapers, incidentally -- and beginning to be more widely read in the United States) discussing the fact that security experts in the United States and elsewhere are beginning to regard the increasing prices of energy, but above all of food, as a serious security threat for the West. The worry is that these price rises (again, especially for food) will produce political instability in developing countries -- riots, overthrow of governments and tensions that could lead to wars.


One of my reactions to the story was: Why didn't more people (including me) see this coming, and creating  problems (especially) for developing nations? It shouldn't have been hard to predict that economic growth in the developing world would increase demand for food and energy, as standards of living increased. And production of neither kind of product responds quickly or reliably to increased demand -- food production levels are fairly dependent on weather, and energy production levels on various political decisions by countries such as Saudi Arabia about how much oil to produce and on the vagaries of oil exploration. So, looking at it now, it doesn't seem like rocket science to have anticipated that economic growth in poor countries eventually might become self-limiting as food and oil inflation created economic and social strains.


Somebody who thought through these possibilities might have invested in energy company stocks a few years ago, or predicted that the stock market's rise would stall or go into reverse. And I'm sure some did -- and got rich from it. I know I didn't think through these things myself, for which I'm slightly mad, or disappointed, at myself. More significantly, I wonder to what extent people in our government were thinking in these ways two or three years ago and, if so, whether they tried, but failed, to get political or agency leaders to try to do something early on to mitigate the effects of the problems we are seeing now.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jun 24, 2008 at 12:10 PM


Featured

  • Cybersecurity
    CISA chief Chris Krebs disusses the future of the agency at Auburn University Aug. 22 2019

    Shared services and the future of CISA

    Chris Krebs, the head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS, said that many federal agencies will be outsourcing cyber to a shared service provider in the future.

  • Telecom
    GSA Headquarters (Photo by Rena Schild/Shutterstock)

    GSA softens line on looming EIS due date

    Think of the September deadline for agencies to award contracts under the General Services Administration's $50-billion telecommunications contract as a "yellow light," said GSA's telecom services director.

  • Defense
    Shutterstock photo id 669226093 By Gorodenkoff

    IC looks to stand up a new enterprise IT program office

    The intelligence community wants to stand up a new program executive office to help develop new IT capabilities.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.