From remarks by Daniel Yergin, author of "The Prize," at the National Press Club, Jan. 14:
How large are the oil stakes? World oil reserves are now about a trillion barrels. Between 1986 and 1990, world oil reserves increased by 300 billion barrels -- the biggest jump in history. But fully 86 percent of the reserves were added in just five countries -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Currently they represent 65 percent of world oil reserves. ... No single nation has dominated the Persian Gulf region since oil was discovered there. Were one to do so, the global balance of power would be changed. Twelve years ago, four of the five major oil producers in the Persian Gulf were pro-Western. If Kuwait remains part of Iraq, there will be only two friendly producers left.
The United States is not as dependent by some measures on foreign oil as other countries. By other measures, it is the most dependent. Germany and Japan both import virtually all their oil, while the United States imports only about half of its oil. However, in absolute terms, U.S. oil imports are larger than Germany's and Japan's combined.
It is often said that America ''failed'' or ''gave up'' on conservation. That is not quite the case. The record of the American people is good in this area. Over the past 15 years, the United States became about 25 percent more energy efficient and 31 percent more oil efficient. It is also true, however, that the conservation seems to have been flattening out since the 1986 price collapse, and I continue to believe that there is still very large potential for further improvements in conservation. That would, among other things, reduce the pressure on world oil supplies, but would not in itself, alas, cancel out the strategic significance of the Gulf oil.