David Livingston
Livingston was an associate fellow in Carnegie’s Energy and Climate Program, where his research focuses on emerging markets, technologies, and risks.
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Oil is localised – it cannot be produced where reserves don’t exist – and yet it is the lifeblood of globalisation. A country that dominates the oil market, which is the world’s largest commodity market, is automatically an influential player in international economic affairs and, by proxy, international politics. Oil is, in other words, a perfect example of the intertwined nature of geography, economics, and politics. This relationship is usually framed in terms of geopolitics, with grand strategic thinking dominating economic rationales in the oil market. In short, energy is seen as a means to an end. A geo-economic perspective on oil, by contrast, appreciates that actors are constantly balancing their economic and political interests, and that economic considerations can drive politics.

Saudi Arabia is the pivotal actor in the global oil market, thanks to its output of roughly 10 million barrels of oil per day. The kingdom’s geo-economic power rests on its strategic positioning in the oil market and its ability to exert influence in this market. In order to understand the political role of Saudi Arabia, one needs to understand its economic role in the world's prime energy market....

This essay was originally published in the collection Connectivity Wars by the European Council on Foreign Relations.

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