Has the Petrodollar Had Its Day?

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2621599
USAEE Working Paper Series

Has the Petrodollar Had Its Day?

Dr Mamdouh G. Salameh
International Oil Economist
World Bank Consultant
UNIDO Technical Expert
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP
Europe University, London

Oil Market Consultancy Service
Spring Croft
Sturt Avenue
Surrey GU27 3SJ
United Kingdom
Tel: (01428) – 644137
e-mail: mgsalameh@btconnect.com

Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2621599
Has the Petrodollar Had Its Day?
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh*
The petrodollar came into existence in 1973 in the wake of the collapse of the
international gold standard which was created in the aftermath of World War II under
the Bretton Woods agreements. These agreements also established the US dollar as
the reserve currency of the world. The Nixon Administration understood that the
collapse of the gold standard system would cause a decline in the global demand for
the US dollar. Maintaining demand for the US dollar was vital for the United States’
economy. So the United States under Nixon struck a deal in 1973 with Saudi Arabia.
Under the terms of the deal, the Saudis would agree to price all of their oil exports in
US dollars exclusively and be open to investing their surplus oil proceeds in US debt
securities. In return, the United States offered weapons and protection of Saudi
oilfields from neighbouring countries including Israel. For the Americans, the
petrodollar increases demand for the dollar and also for US debt securities and
allows the US to buy oil with a currency it can print at will. In 1975, all of the OPEC
nations agreed to follow suit. Maintaining the petrodollar is America’s primary goal.
Everything else is secondary. However, as the US dollar continued to lose
purchasing power, several oil-producing nations began to question the wisdom of
accepting increasingly devalued petrodollar for their oil exports. Several countries
have attempted to move away from the petrodollar, or already moved away.
Examples include Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran, Syria and Venezuela.
Additionally, other nations are choosing to use their own currencies for oil like China,
Russia and India. This paper will deal with the actions, incentives, and related
consequences that the United States has created through its attempts to maintain
global hegemony through the petrodollar. It will examine the latest challenges facing
the petrodollar and how the petrodollar system influences the United States’ foreign
policy. The paper will conclude that the petrodollar has had its day and that it will be
a matter of time before it becomes redundant with huge repercussions for the US
economy and the global economy.
Key Words: Petrodollar, Yuan, Reserve Currency, Inflation, Federal Reserve.
The petrodollar came into existence in 1973 in the wake of the collapse of the
international gold standard which was created in the aftermath of World War II under
the Bretton Woods agreements. These agreements also established the US dollar as
the reserve currency of the world. Former president Richard Nixon and his then
foreign secretary Henry Kissinger understood that the collapse of the gold standard
system would cause a decline in the global demand for the US dollar.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2621599
Maintaining that “artificial dollar demand” was vital for the United States’ economy.
So the United States under Nixon struck a deal in 1973 with Saudi Arabia under
which every barrel of oil purchased from the Saudis would be denominated in US
dollars only. Any country that sought to purchase oil from Saudi Arabia would be
required to first exchange its own national currency for dollars. Under the terms of
the deal, the Saudis would agree to price all of their oil exports in US dollars
exclusively and be open to investing their surplus oil proceeds in US debt securities.
In exchange, the United States offered weapons and protection of Saudi oilfields
from neighbouring countries including Israel.
For the Americans, the petrodollar increases demand for the dollar and also for US
debt securities and allows the US to buy oil with a currency it can print at will.
Maintaining the petrodollar is America’s primary goal. Everything else is secondary.
Without it, the US dollar would collapse. 1
In 1975, all of the OPEC nations agreed to follow suit. However, as the US dollar
continued to lose purchasing power, several oil-producing nations began to question
the wisdom of accepting increasingly worthless paper currency for their own oil
exports. Today, several countries have attempted to move away from the petrodollar,
or already moved away. Examples include Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Iran, Syria
and Venezuela. Additionally, other nations are choosing to use their own currencies
for oil like China, Russia and India. The petrodollar created an immediate demand
for US dollar around the globe thus enhancing its artificial value. And of course, as
global oil demand increased, so did the demand for the dollar. As more countries
continue to move away from the petrodollar, massive inflationary pressures could be
expected to strike the US economy. 2
What is Petrodollar?
The Petrodollar is the money that oil-exporting nations receive from selling their oil in
US dollar-denominated currency which is deposited into Western banks. The term
was first coined by Egyptian-born American economist, Professor Ibrahim M Oweiss
of Georgetown University in a pioneering work on petrodollar surpluses in 1974. 3
Under the Bretton Woods agreements, the US Dollar was pegged at a fixed rate to
gold. This made the US dollar completely convertible into gold at a fixed rate of $35
per ounce within the global economic community. This international convertibility into
gold allayed concerns about the fixed rate regime and created a sense of financial
security among nations in pegging their currencies’ value to the dollar. After all, the
Bretton Woods arrangements provided an escape hatch: if a particular nation no
longer felt comfortable with the dollar, they could easily convert their dollars holdings
into gold. This arrangement helped restore a much-needed stability in the financial
system. But it also created a strong global demand for US dollars as the preferred
medium of exchange (see Figure 1).
And along with this growing demand for US Dollars came the need for a
larger supply of dollars. This begs the question: Are there any obvious benefits from
creating more dollars? And if so, who benefits?
The United States government benefits from a global demand for US dollars. How?
It’s because a global demand for dollars gives the Federal government a
“permission” to print more. Is it a coincidence that printing dollars is the US
government’s preferred method of dealing with its economic problems?
Figure 1

Source: Courtesy of Jerry Robinson, FTM Daily.com.
One has to remember that Washington only has four basic ways to solve its
economic problems: (1) Increase revenue by raising taxes; (2) Cut spending by
reducing benefits; (3) Borrow money through the issuance of government bonds and
(4) Print money.
Raising taxes and making meaningful spending cuts can be political suicide.
Borrowing money is a politically convenient option, but you can only borrow so much.
That leaves the final option of printing money. Printing money requires no immediate
sacrifice and no spending cuts. However, printing more money than is needed can
lead to inflation. Therefore, if a country can somehow generate a global demand for
its currency, it will have a “permission” to print more money. Understanding this
“permission” concept will be important as we continue.
Finally, the primary beneficiary of an increased global demand for the US Dollar is
America’s central bank, the Federal Reserve.
The U.S. Dollar is issued and loaned to the United States government by the Federal
Reserve. Because the dollars are loaned to the US government by the Federal
Reserve, which is a private central banking cartel, the dollars must be paid back.
And not only must the dollars be paid back to the Federal Reserve. They must be
paid back with interest. And who sets the interest rate targets on the loaned dollars?
It’s the Federal Reserve, of course.
To put it simply, the Federal Reserve has a clear vested interest in maintaining a
stable and growing global demand for US Dollars because they create them and
then earn profit from them with interest rates which they set themselves.
In summary, the American consumer, the Federal government, and the Federal
Reserve all benefit to varying degrees from a global demand for US Dollars. There is
an old saying that goes, “He who holds the gold makes the rules.” This statement
has never been truer than in the case of America in the post–World War II era. By
the end of the war, nearly 80% of the world’s gold was sitting in US vaults, and the
U.S. Dollar had officially become the world’s undisputed reserve currency. 4
As a result of the Bretton Woods arrangements, the dollar was considered to be “as
safe as gold.”
A study of the United States economy in the post-World War II era demonstrates that
this was a time of dramatic economic growth and expansion. By the late 1960’s,
however, the American economy was under major pressure. Deficit spending in
Washington was uncontrollable as former US President Lyndon B. Johnson began to
realize his dream of the “Great Society.” Meanwhile, an expensive and unpopular
war in Vietnam funded by record deficit spending led some nations to question the
economic underpinnings of America. Vietnam, the Great Society, and deficit
Spending undermined the gold standard.
After all, the entire global economic order had become dependent upon a sound US
economy. Countries like Japan, Germany, and France, while fully on the mend from
the devastation of World War II, were still largely dependent upon a financially stable
American economy to maintain their economic growth.
By 1971, as America’s trade deficits increased and its domestic spending soared, the
perceived economic stability of the United States was being publicly challenged by
many nations around the globe. Foreign nations could sense the severe economic
difficulties mounting in Washington as the United States was under financial
pressure at home and abroad. According to most estimates, the Vietnam War had a
price tag in excess of $200 billion. This mounting debt, plus other debts incurred
through a series of poor fiscal and monetary policies, was highly problematic given
America’s global monetary role. 5
But it was not America’s financial issues that most concerned the international
economic community. Instead, it was the growing imbalance of US gold reserves to
debt levels that was most alarming.
The United States had accumulated large amounts of new debts but did not have the
money to pay for them. Making matters worse, US gold reserves were at all-time
lows as nation after nation began requesting gold in exchange for their dollar
holdings. It was almost as if foreign nations could see the writing on the wall for the
end of the Bretton Woods arrangements.
As 1971 progressed, so did foreign demand for US gold. Foreign central banks
began cashing in their excess dollars in exchange for the safety of gold. As nations
lined up to exchange their dollar holdings for Washington’s gold, the United States
realized that the game was over. Clearly, America had never intended to be the
globe’s gold warehouse. Instead, the convertibility of the dollar into gold was meant
to generate a global trust in US paper money. Simply knowing that the US dollar
could be converted into gold if necessary was good enough for some — but not for
everyone. The nations which began to doubt America’s ability to manage their own
finances decided to opt for the recognized safety of gold.
One would have expected that the large and growing demand by foreign nations for
gold instead of dollars would have given a strong signal to the United States to get
its fiscal house in order. Instead, America did exactly the opposite. As Washington
continued racking up enormous debts, foreign nations sped up their demand for
more US gold and fewer U.S. dollars. Washington was caught in its own trap and
was required to supply real money (gold) in return for the inflows of their paper
money (US dollars).
Soon the United States was bleeding gold. Washington knew that the system was no
longer viable, and certainly not sustainable. But what could they do to stem the
crisis? There were only two options. The first option would require that Washington
immediately reduce its massive spending and dramatically reduce its existing debts.
This option could possibly restore confidence in the long-term viability of the US
economy. The second option would be to increase the dollar price of gold to
accurately reflect the new economic realities. There was an inherent difficulty in both
of these options that made them unacceptable to the United States at the time. They
both required fiscal restraint and economic responsibility. Then, as now, there was
very little appetite for reducing consumption or changing the American way of life for
the sake of “sacrifice” or “responsibility.”
The Bretton Woods agreements created an international gold standard with the US
dollar as the ultimate beneficiary. But in an ironic twist of fate, the system that was
designed to bring stability to a war-torn global economy was threatening to plunge
world back into financial chaos.
On August 15, 1971, under the leadership of former President Nixon, Washington
chose to maintain its reckless consumption and debt patterns by detaching the US
Dollar from its convertibility into gold. By “closing the gold window,” Nixon destroyed
the final vestiges of the international gold standard. Nixon’s decision effectively
ended the practice of exchanging dollars for gold as directed under the Bretton
Woods agreements. It was in the year 1971, that the US dollar officially abandoned
the gold standard and was declared a purely “fiat” currency, a currency which
derives its value from its sponsoring government and is issued and accepted by
decree. 6
By “closing the gold window,” Washington had not only affected American economic
policy but also global economic policy. Under the international gold standard of
Bretton Woods, all currencies derived their value from the value of the dollar. And
the dollar derived its value from the fixed price of its gold reserves. But when the
dollar’s value was detached from gold, it became what economists call a “floating”
currency”. Put simply, a “floating” currency is a currency that is not fixed in value.
Like any commodity, the dollar could be affected by the market forces of supply and
demand. When the dollar became a “floating” currency, the rest of the world’s
currencies, which had been previously fixed to the dollar, suddenly became “floating”
currencies as well.
In this new era of floating currencies, the US Federal Reserve had finally freed itself
from the constraint of a gold standard. Now, the US dollar could be printed at will —
without the worry of not having enough gold reserves to back up new currency
production. And while this new-found monetary freedom would alleviate pressure on
America’s gold reserves, there were other concerns. One major concern that
Washington had was regarding a potential shift in global demand for the US
dollar. With the dollar no longer convertible into gold, would demand for the dollar by
foreign nations remain the same, or would it fall?
The second concern had to do with America’s extravagant spending habits. Under
the international gold standard of Bretton Woods, foreign nations gladly held US debt
securities, as they were denominated in gold-backed US dollars. Would foreign
nations still be eager to hold America’s debts despite the fact that these debts were
denominated by a heavily indebted paper currency? Once one understands this
“dollars for oil” arrangement, it becomes easier to get a better understanding of what
motivates America’s foreign policy.

Dollars for Oil Replace Dollars for Gold
Despite pressure from foreign nations to protect the dollar’s value by reining in
excessive government spending, Washington displayed little fiscal constraint and
continued to live far beyond its means. It had become obvious to all that America
lacked the basic fiscal discipline which could prevent the destruction of its own
Like previous governments before it, America had figured out how to “game” the
global reserve currency system for its own benefit, leaving foreign nations in an
economically vulnerable position. After America and its citizens have tasted the
sweet fruit of excessive living at the expense of other nations, they are not going to
change their way of life.
It is unfair, however, to say that the decision-makers in Washington were blind to the
deep economic issues confronting their country in the late 1960’s and early
1970’s.They were aware that the “dollars for gold” arrangement had become
completely unsustainable. But instead of seeking solutions to the global economic
imbalances that had been created by America’s excessive deficits, Washington’s
primary concern was how to gain an even greater stranglehold on the global
In order to ensure their economic hegemony, and thereby preserve an increasing
demand for the dollar, the Washington elites needed a plan. And in order for this
plan to succeed, it would require that the artificial dollar demand that had been lost in
the wake of the gold standard collapse be replaced through some other mechanism.
That plan came in the form of the petrodollar system.

Saudi Arabia to the Rescue
Saudi Arabia has a very long history of collaborating with the United States in
economic and geopolitical matters. The deal struck in 1973 between the United
States and Saudi Arabia to denominate all Saudi oil exports exclusively in US dollars
is but one case among many with the Saudis doing America’s bidding.
The most recent example of this collaboration is the steep decline in crude oil prices
since July 2014 with Saudi Arabia not only refusing to cut its production to bolster the
oil price but also exerting strong pressure on OPEC not to do so. Circumstantial
evidence suggests some political collusion between Saudi Arabia and the United
States behind the steep decline in the oil price since July 2014. 7
Saudi Arabia took advantage of the low oil prices to inflict damage on Iran’s
economy and weaken its influence in the Middle East in its proxy war with Iran over
its nuclear programme whilst the United States is taking advantage of the low oil
prices to weaken Russia’s economy and tighten the sanctions against Russia over
the Ukraine.
History repeats itself. Early in the 1980s, Sheikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani, the veteran,
former oil minister of Saudi Arabia, suddenly awoke to Saudi Arabia’s need for
market Share. He flooded the market with oil causing the oil price to collapse to
$10/barrel. It later transpired that the Saudi need for a market share was just a cover
for a CIA-Saudi conspiracy to hasten the demise of the former Soviet Union.
And now the Saudi oil minister Ali Al-Naimi is waking up to the same need. Al-Naimi
has followed in the exact footsteps of Yamani. He suddenly remembered at the
166th Meeting of the Conference of OPEC on the 27th of November 2014 the need
for Saudi market share. This is probably a cover for a new collusion between the
United States and Saudi Arabia to lower the oil prices in a new conspiracy against
Russia and Iran.
Whilst the key players have changed, the strategic objectives have remained the

The Primary Benefits of the Petrodollar for the United States
The petrodollar system has proven tremendously beneficial to the US economy. In
addition to creating a marketplace for affordable imported goods from countries who
need US dollars, there are more specific benefits. In essence, America receives a
double loan out of every global oil transaction.
The petrodollar system provides at least three immediate benefits to the United
States. It increases global demand for US dollars. It also increases global demand
for US debt securities and it gives the United States the ability to buy oil with a
currency it can print at will. Let’s briefly examine each one of these benefits.

One of the most brilliant
aspects of the petrodollar system was requesting that oil producing nations take their
excess oil profits and place them into US debt securities. This system would later
become known as “petrodollar recycling” as coined by Henry Kissinger. Through
their exclusive use of dollars for oil transactions, and then depositing their excess
profits into American debt securities, the petrodollar system is a “dream come true”
for a spendthrift government like the United States.
This has enabled the United States to maintain artificially low interest rates. The US
economy has become dependent upon these artificially low interest rates and,
therefore, has a vested interest in maintaining them through any means necessary.
The massive economic distortions and imbalances generated by the petrodollar
system will eventually self-correct when the artificial dollar and US debt demand is
removed. That day is coming.
Another major benefit of the petrodollar system has to do with the actual purchase of
oil itself. With oil priced in US dollars, America can literally print money to buy oil and
then have the oil producers hold the debt that was created by printing the money in
the first place. What other nation, besides America, can print money to buy oil?

Petrodollars & Petrodollar Surpluses
Since petrodollars and petrodollar surpluses are by definition denominated in US
dollars, then purchasing power is dependent on the US rate of inflation and the rate
at which the U.S. dollar is exchanged (whenever there is need for convertibility) by
other currencies in international money markets. It follows that whenever economic
or other factors affect the US dollar, petrodollars will be affected to the same
magnitude. The link, therefore, between the US dollar and petrodollar surpluses, in
particular, has significant economic, political, and other implications.
First, the placement of petrodollar surpluses of the Arab oil exporting nations in the
United States may be regarded politically as hostage capital. 8 In the event of a
major political conflict between the United States and an Arab oil-exporting nation,
the former with all its military might can confiscate or freeze these assets or
otherwise limit their use. It can impose special regulations or at least use regulations
for a time, in order to attain certain political, economic, or other goals. The US
government resorted to such weapons twice in the l980s against Iranian and Libyan
assets. It follows, therefore, that governments placing their petrodollar surpluses in
the United States may lose part of their economic and political independence.
Consequently, the more petrodollar surpluses are placed in the United States by a
certain oil-exporting nation, the less independent such a nation becomes.
Second, an oil-exporting country can have petrodollar surpluses only if its absorptive
capacity is less than its earnings from the sale of’ oil for any particular period of time.
It follows, therefore, that petrodollar surpluses depend on oil prices, volumes
exported, and the nation’s absorptive capacity.
Third, petrodollar surpluses do not represent real wealth but rather are a vehicle by
which the latter can be acquired. If kept in liquid form such as paper dollars, their
purchasing power will gradually be eroded by inflation and adverse foreign exchange
rates. Both are affected in the United States by a host of variables such money
supply, interest rates, marginal productivity and balance-of-payments deficit. Another
factor is US monetary and fiscal policy which in turn affects some of’ these variables.
Therefore, the purchasing power of petrodollar surpluses belonging, for example, to
Arab oil-exporting nations is determined by factors that are not in the control of these
countries. 9
Fourth, efficient allocation of petrodollars for internal investments could increase the
productive capacity of an oil-exporting nation and may work to its relative advantage.
However, dependency on imported consumer goods promotes the export of limited
oil resources that could have been otherwise used for internal capital development.
Fifth, the economic development of an oil-exporting nation is based on the
conversion of its oil resources into other assets such as wealth-creating projects,
diversification, education, technology, infrastructure, and other forms of real wealth,
that is, real capital stock. Obviously the conversion process can be carried on at
different rates. An optimum rate is achieved when oil is pumped at a level that can
maximize the conversion process. By pumping oil in excess of an optimum
production rate, the Arab Gulf oil-producing countries accumulated petrodollar
surpluses until 1981. After that the petrodollar surpluses have turned into deficits.
That was the time when Sheikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani flooded the global oil market
with oil causing the oil price to collapse to around $10/barrel. It is worth noting that
the difference between the volume of oil actually supplied and the volume that
should have been supplied in observance of standard microeconomic theory is in
fact a subsidy granted, in real terms, to oil-importing nations such as the United
States, Germany, France, and Japan. 10
Allocation of Petrodollar Surpluses
The bulk of petrodollar surpluses is held either in US treasury bills and other shortterm instruments or in American and Western European banks. Petrodollar
surpluses have also been used to increase the official reserves of the oil-exporting
countries at both the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development.
Petrodollar surpluses have been recycled by commercial banks in the United States
and other industrialized nations as well as by international institutions. By drawing
against petrodollar surpluses as deposits or certificates of deposits, banks were able
to expand their volume of lending. For bankers the most obvious clients were the
developing countries, mainly in Latin America, such as Mexico, Brazil, and
According to US Treasury information, petrodollar surpluses have turned into deficits
since 1982. There are three main reasons for this turn of events: increase in imports
by oil-exporting nations; reduction in the demand for oil, particularly from OPEC; and
the oil glut which led to a reduction in its price.

The Petrodollar Wars: Iraq & Libya
The world currently consumes 92 million barrels of oil per day (mbd) and this is
projected to rise to 97 mbd by 2020. And thanks to the petrodollar system, growing
global demand for oil leads to an increase in US dollar demand. This artificial
demand for US dollars has provided remarkable benefits for the US economy. It has
also required the Federal Reserve to keep the dollar in plentiful supply (see Figure
By perpetually expanding the US money supply, America’s standard of living
increases as well. The problem with this situation is that the only way that it can be
sustained is if the demand for the dollar and for US debt securities remains
consistently strong.
On September 11, 2001, America’s relations with the Middle East would be altered
forever. The tragic events of that day still live on in the memory of the world.
Interestingly, just five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the
Pentagon, former US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld began ordering his
staff to develop plans for a strike on Iraq despite the fact that there was absolutely no
evidence linking the country, or its leader Saddam Hussein, to the 9/11 attacks. 11

Figure 2
Source: Courtesy of FTMdaily.com
On September 12, 2001, despite zero evidence against Iraq, Defence Secretary
Rumsfeld proposed to former president George W. Bush that Iraq should be “a
principal target of the first round in the war against terrorism.” Bush, along with his
other advisors, including Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz, strongly
supported the idea that Iraq should be included in their attack plans.
In fact, Washington had already been preparing for an invasion of Iraq. The Los
Angeles Times reported that one year prior to the attacks of 9/11, the US began in
April 2000 constructing Al Adid, a billion-dollar military base in Qatar with a 15,000-
foot long runway. What was Washington’s stated justification for the new Al Adid
base, and other similar ones in the Gulf region? Preparedness for renewed action
against Iraq.12
It would later be revealed that an invasion of Iraq was at the top of the Bush
administration’s agenda only 10 days after his inauguration, which was a full eight
months before 9/11. 13
So why Iraq? Why the rush to war with a country that so obviously had no
connection with the events of 9/11? Did the U.S. have some other motivation for
seeking international support to invade Iraq?
On September 24, 2000, Saddam Hussein allegedly emerged from a meeting of his
cabinet and proclaimed that Iraq would soon switch its oil export transactions from
the petrodollar to the euro. By 2002, Saddam had fully converted to a petroeuro – in
essence, dumping the dollar. On March 19, 2003, George W. Bush announced the
commencement of a full scale invasion of Iraq.
Saddam’s bold threat to the petrodollar system had invited the full force and fury of
the US military onto his country. Or was America’s stated purpose to “liberate” the
Iraqi people from a brutal regime actually a clever guise for making an example of a
nation which dared threaten the existing petrodollar system? However, it would be
naïve to assume that this was the real reason for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The
real reason was oil. 14 Even Alan Greenspan the former chairman of the Federal
Reserve Board for 17 years, concurs. 15
It should be noted that Iraq’s proven oil reserves are considered to be among the
largest in the world. Some experts believe that Iraq’s oilfields, many of which have
yet to be exploited, will catapult Iraq above Saudi Arabia in total proven oil reserves
in the coming years.
It is a matter of conjecture that the Middle East could have had a different shape
today had the petrodollar not come into existence. Being established on a
geopolitical infrastructure, the petrodollar has developed dimensions of security,
economics and development for the US and the major oil exporters in the Middle
The petrodollar has caused much ire for many nations due to the power it gave the
US. Interestingly, anyone who challenged the petrodollar did not fair well.
In Libya, US-backed rebels toppled Muammar Gaddafi who proposed a gold-backed
African currency that would be traded for African oil. Moreover, Russian president
Putin is under scrutiny for his push towards a Yuan-Ruble oil trading system. 16

Defending the Petrodollar System
Since the dawn of the oil age, the geopolitical strategies concocted by developed
nations have increasingly been centred on maintaining easy access to the world’s oil
supplies. Only the truly naive could deny the obvious powerful economic and political
incentives that are derived from access to cheap oil supplies. And while most nations
have a clear motivation to maintain easy access to the world’s cheapest oil supplies
out of sheer economic necessity, this is certainly not the sole concern for the United
States. The United States has an additional unique incentive regarding the world’s
oil, namely, ensuring that all oil around the globe, both current supplies and future
discoveries, remain priced in US dollars.
A simple examination of America’s foreign policy efforts in the wake of the ‘oil shock’
of 1973 and in the ensuing foundation of the petrodollar system in the mid-1970s,
makes it painstakingly clear to any casual political observer that a central goal of
Washington has been to control global oil supplies, specifically in the Middle East.
After the 1973 ‘oil shock’, former president Nixon warned US citizens “that American
military intervention to protect vital oil supplies” in the region, was a strong possibility.
This speech marked the first official and formal commitment to deploy US troops to
the Middle East for the explicit reason of protecting America’s oil interests.
On 23 January 1980, former US president Jimmy Carter proclaimed in his State of
the Union Address the “Carter Doctrine” which stated that the United States would
use military force if necessary to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf. It
was a response to the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 and was
intended to deter the Soviet Union from threatening oil supplies from the Middle
By January 1, 1983, the United States created the Central Command (CENTCOM)
with the stated mission of acting as a deterrent (primarily against the Soviets) and to
help maintain regional stability and the flow of oil from the Arab Gulf to the United
States and other western allies (see Figure 3). After all, maintaining a global order
dependent upon a “dollars for oil” system is no cheap task and requires careful
monitoring and oversight of the world’s oil supplies. Chief among the potential
concerns for the petrodollar
guardians are: threats of
restrictions on oil supplies
and, perhaps most importantly,
devising “permanent solutions” to
the problems presented
by nations who dare challenge
the current “dollars for oil”
Figure 3

Putin’s Revenge: Russia is Actually Abandoning the Petrodollar
Sanctions were imposed on Russia after its intrusion into the Ukraine in February
2014 and the ensuing annexation of the Crimea. Even before sanctions were
introduced, Russia was already in the process of reorienting its energy posture to
Asia in view of the growth in energy demand in that continent and the likely
stagnation or decline of demand in Europe over the next few decades. 17
Angered by the sanctions, the Russians began considering action against the United
States. They are actually making a move against the petrodollar. It appears that
they are quite serious about their de-dollarization strategy. The largest natural gas
producer on the planet, Gazprom, has signed agreements with some of their biggest
customers to switch payments for natural gas from US dollars to euros. And
Gazprom would have never done this without the full approval of the Russian
government which holds a majority stake in Gazprom. 18 When you are talking
about Gazprom, you are talking about a company that is absolutely massive. It is
one of the largest companies in the entire world and it makes up 8% of Russian GDP
all by itself. It holds 18% of the proven natural gas reserves of the entire world, and
it is also a very large oil producer. So for Gazprom to make a move like this is
extremely significant. 19
When Barack Obama decided to slap some meaningless economic sanctions on
Russia a while back, he probably figured that the world would forget about them
soon after. But the Russians do not forget, and they certainly do not forgive.
At this point the Russians are turning their back on the United States, and that
includes the US dollar. What Gazprom is now doing has the potential to really shake
up the global financial landscape.
Gazprom Neft had signed additional agreements with consumers on a possible
switch from dollars to euros for payments under contracts. Nine out of ten
consumers had agreed to switch to euros. 20
And Gazprom is not the only big company in Russia that is moving away from the
US dollar. According to Russia Today TV (RT), other large Russian corporations are
moving to other currencies as well.
Russia will start settling more contracts in Asian currencies, especially the Chinese
yuan in order to lessen its dependence on the dollar market, and because of
Western-led sanctions that could freeze funds at any moment. Diversifying trade
accounts from dollars to the Chinese yuan and other Asian currencies such as the
Hong Kong dollar and Singapore dollar has been a part of Russia’s pivot towards
Asian as tension with Europe and the US remain strained over Russia’s action in
And expanding the use of non-dollar currencies is one of the main things that major
Russian banks are working on right now. Russia’s large exposure to the dollar
subjects it to more market volatility in times of crisis. There is no reason why you
have to settle trade you do with Japan in dollars.
Meanwhile, Russians have been pulling money out of US banks at an
unprecedented pace. In March 2014, without waiting for the sanction spiral to kick in,
Russians yanked their money out of US banks. Deposits by Russians in US banks
suddenly plunged from $21.6 billion to $8.4 billion in one month. They’d learned their
lesson in Cyprus the hard way: get your money out while you still can before it gets
As Russia abandons the US dollar, that will hurt but if other nations start following
suit that could eventually cause a financial avalanche.
What we are witnessing right now is just a turning point. The effects won’t be felt
right away. But this is definitely another element in the “perfect storm” that is starting
to brew for the US economy.
Putin’s support of the BRICS Development Bank is significant. The New BRICS
Development Bank is up and running. It is backed by gold, silver and real
commodities unlike the US Federal Reserve System which is based on Fiat private
China and Russia are together moving to create a parallel financial system,
disentangled from the Western financial system. It includes creating entities such as
the Asian Development Bank. One of the principal tools in the hands of Washington
to control the global system has always been the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Nations have to go to the IMF to ask for financial help when in difficulties, but
recently it was China – and not the IMF – which bailed out Venezuela and Argentina
and provided financial support to Russia when their currencies came under pressure.
The IMF and the World Bank were no longer at the centre of the global financial
order. They are being displaced by China. 22
European and American leaders thought that Russia would weaken because of
sanctions and the fall of the ruble against the US dollar, but China intervened and
stopped the collapse of the ruble. In short, China is operating as a backstop to a
financial system that is in the process of shifting dramatically away from Western

China Is Also Making A Move Against the US Dollar
There are indications that the Chinese are now accelerating their long-term plan to
dethrone the US dollar. The truth of the matter is that China does not plan to allow
the US financial system to dominate the world indefinitely. Right now, China is the
number one exporter on the globe and the largest crude oil importer in the world.
And soon it will have the largest economy in the world.
The Chinese would like to see global currency usage reflect this shift in global
economic power. At the moment, most global trade is conducted in US dollars and
more than 60% of all global foreign exchange reserves are held in US dollars. This
gives the United States an enormous built-in advantage but thanks to decades of
incredibly bad decisions, this advantage is starting to erode. And due to the recent
political infighting in Washington D.C., the Chinese sense vulnerability. China has
begun to publicly worry about the level of US debt. Chinese officials have publicly
threatened to stop buying any more US debt and have started to aggressively make
currency swap agreements with other major global powers and, furthermore, China
has been accumulating unprecedented amounts of gold. All of these moves are
setting up the moment in the future when China will completely pull the rug out from
under the US dollar.
Today, the US financial system is the core of the global financial system. Because
nearly everybody uses the US dollar to buy oil and to trade with one another, this
creates a tremendous demand for US dollars around the planet. So other nations
are generally happy to take US dollars in exchange for oil, cheap plastic gadgets and
other things that US consumers “need”.
Major exporting nations accumulate huge piles of dollars, but instead of just letting all
of that money sit there, they often invest large portions of their currency reserves into
US Treasury bonds which can easily be liquidated if needed.
So if the US financial system is the core of the global financial system, then US debt
is “the core of the core”. US Treasury bonds fuel the print-borrow-spend cycle that
the global economy depends upon. That is why a US debt default would be such a
big deal. A default would cause interest rates to skyrocket and the entire global
economic system to go haywire.
Unfortunately for the United States, the US debt spiral cannot go on indefinitely. US
debt is growing far more rapidly than GDP is, and therefore the debt is completely
and totally unsustainable.
The Chinese understand what is going on, and when the dust settles they plan to be
the last ones standing. In the aftermath of a US currency collapse, China anticipates
having the largest economy on the planet, more gold than anyone else, and a
respected international currency that the rest of the globe will be able to use to
conduct international trade.
And China is not just going to sit back and wait for all of this to happen. In fact, they
are already doing lots of things to get the ball moving. The following are signs that
China is making a move against the US dollar.
China has just entered into a very large currency swap agreement with the euro
zone that is considered a huge step toward establishing the yuan as a major world
currency. This agreement will result in a lot less US dollars being used in trade
between China and Europe.
China currently owns about 1.3 trillion dollars of US debt, and this enormous
exposure to US debt is starting to become a major political issue within China.
There have been media reports that China is looking to diversify its $3.66 trillion of
foreign exchange reserve into real estate investments in Europe.
Xinhua, the official news agency of China, called for a “de-Americanized world” ” and
also made the following statement about the political turmoil in Washington:
“Politicians in Washington have done nothing substantial but postponing once again
the final bankruptcy of global confidence in the US financial system“. The
commentary in the government-run media also declared that the debt deal “was no
more than prolonging the fuse of the US debt bomb one inch longer.”
China is the largest producer of gold in the world, and it has also been importing an
absolutely massive amount of gold from other nations. But instead of slowing down,
the Chinese appear to be accelerating their gold buying. In fact, China plans to buy
another 5,000 tons of gold. There are many who are convinced that China eventually
plans to back the yuan with gold and try to make it the number one alternative to the
US dollar. 23 This could have devastating effects on the US economy. Demand for
the US dollar and US debt would drop like a rock, and prices would soar. If the rest
of the world (led by China) starts to reject the US dollar, it would result in a massive
tsunami of currency coming back to the US and a very painful adjustment in US
standard of living. Today, most US currency is actually used outside of the United

Oil-rich Nations Are Selling off Their Petrodollar Assets
In the heady days of the commodity boom, oil-rich nations accumulated billions of
dollars which they invested in US debt and other securities. Now that oil prices have
dropped by half to just over $50 a barrel, Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich nations are
fast drawing down those “petrodollar” reserves.
If oil and other commodity prices remain depressed, the trend will cut demand for
everything from European government debt to US real estate as producing nations
seek to fill holes in their domestic budgets.
This is the first time in 20 years that OPEC nations will be sucking liquidity out of the
market rather than adding to it through investments. And for the first time, too, we
see the end of the petrodollar as a system for recirculating oil revenues to
Wall Street. It is sucking liquidity out from Wall Street, not putting it in. The fall in the
price of oil has suddenly created huge financial turbulence, which is endangering the
global financial system. 24
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, is a prime example of the swiftness
and magnitude of the selloff: its foreign exchange reserves fell by $20.2 billion in
February 2015 alone, the biggest monthly drop in at least 15 years according to data
from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency. That’s almost double the drop after the
financial crisis in early 2009 when oil prices plunged and Riyadh consumed $11.6
billion of its reserves in a single month. 25
The International Monetary Fund commodity index, a broad basket of natural
resources from iron ore and oil to bananas and copper, fell in January to its lowest
since mid-2009. Although the index has recovered a little since then, it still is down
more than 40% from a record high set in early 2011.
A concomitant drop in foreign reserves, revealed in data from national central banks
and the IMF, is affecting nations from oil producer Oman to copper-rich Chile.
Algeria, one of the world’s top natural gas exporters, saw its funds fall by $11.6
billion in January, the largest monthly drop in a quarter of century. At that rate, it will
empty the reserves in 15 months.26
OPEC members are expected to earn $380 billion selling their oil this year,
according to US estimates. That represents a $350 billion drop from 2014 — the
largest one-year decline in history.
“The shock for oil-rich countries is enormous,” Rabah Arezki, head of the
commodities research team at the IMF in Washington, said in an interview. Oil-rich
countries will sell more than $200 billion of assets this year to bridge the gap left
between high fiscal spending and low revenues.
The drawdown reverses a decade-long inflow into the coffers of commodity-rich
nations which helped to increase funds available for investment and boost asset
prices. Bond purchases have helped to keep interest rates low.
Are the Petrodollar’s Days Numbered?
Today, the geopolitical sands of the Middle East are rapidly shifting. The faltering
strategic regional position of Saudi Arabia, the rise of Iran (which is not part of the
petrodollar system), failed US interventions, Russia’s increasing power as an energy
giant and the emergence of the BRICS nations (which offer the potential of future
alternative economic/security arrangements) all affect the sustainability of the
petrodollar system.
One needs also to be aware of what Vladimir Putin is doing. Putin would like nothing
more than to sabotage the petrodollar, and he’s forging alliances across the world
that he hopes will help him achieve his goal. At the same time, one should also
watch the deteriorating relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis are furious at what they perceive to be the US not holding up its end of
the petrodollar deal. They believe that as part of the US commitment to keep the
region safe for the Kingdom, the US should have attacked its regional rivals Syria
and Iran by now. And they may feel they are no longer obliged to uphold their part of
the deal, namely selling their oil only in US dollars. They’re already heavily involved
with China and could also tilt toward Russia. Oil traded in rubles or yuans could be
the future result.
The US is really not importing much Arab oil anymore. If that were the case, it’s
really hard to see why the Arabs would continue to price their oil in dollars, especially
that their biggest customers would be China, Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries
that have no particular reason to deal in dollars.
The petrodollar system breaking down, where oil is no longer paid for in dollars
internationally, essentially would be the death knell to the US dollar as the global
reserve currency. It means the US may not be able to borrow with great ease
anymore, and it means that the US Treasury market is set for an out-of-control
interest rate spiral.
As it is, the Arab oil-producing nations have more dollars than they know what to do
with. By one expert estimate, some $8–10 trillion in currency balances lie in Middle
Eastern hands, much of it in dollars. How long will they want to keep all those dollars
lying around especially when the Asia-Pacific region now accounts for one-third of
global oil consumption and the US only 20%? 27
Meanwhile, the world’s leading oil importer –China- is doing its part to undermine the
petrodollar. In recent years, China has been striking agreements with many of its
trade partners to do business using each other’s currencies. China and Russia,
China and Brazil, China and Australia, even China and its old/new enemy Japan —
they all have currency swaps and other arrangements in place to bypass the dollar.
Last November brought word the Shanghai Futures Exchange was thinking about
pricing its new crude oil futures contract in both yuan and dollars, with the aim of
making that contract the new Asian benchmark.
But while the Arabs fret about the value of their dollars and the Chinese move
actively to diversify away from the dollar it might be the Russians who will deliver the
final blow.
The chaos that one day will ensue from the United States’ 44-year experiment with
worldwide fiat money will require a return to money of real value. The US will know
that day is approaching when oil-producing countries demand gold, or its equivalent,
for their oil rather than dollars. 28
This is critically important, because once the dollar loses its coveted reserve status,
the consequences will be dire for Americans. At that moment, Washington will
become sufficiently desperate to enforce the radical measures that governments
throughout world history have always implemented when their currencies were under

Since 1980, America has devolved from being the world’s greatest creditor nation to
the world’s largest debtor nation. But thanks to the massive artificial demand for US
dollars and government debt made possible by the petrodollar system, America
could still continue its spending spree, reckless wars, and record deficits.
At one point in America’s history, the country’s largest export was a variety of
manufactured goods. Today, America’s largest export is the US dollar. And the dollar
costs the United States practically nothing to print. How long will it be before the
nations of the world figure out that the petrodollar game is over. This shift is being
accelerated by joint Chinese/Russian efforts to dethrone the US dollar as a reserve
currency and also as the currency for global trade and oil transactions. Even Saudi
Arabia now acknowledges the eventual end of the petrodollar probably by 2032.
They are planning to invest a total of $109 bn in solar energy with the aim of
becoming an exporter of solar electricity.
And while the US economy with its great power of innovation and inherent strengths,
could support a powerful currency, it certainly can’t support the very many trillions of
dollars circulating around the world.
It is probable that the Chinese yuan will emerge as the world’s reserve currency
within the next two decades backed by gold, currency swap agreements, real
purchasing power and Russian oil and natural gas reserves.
*Dr Mamdouh G. Salameh is an international oil economist, a consultant to the World
Bank in Washington DC on oil & energy and a technical expert of the United Nations
Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Vienna. He is a member of both the
International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and the Royal Institute of
International Affairs. He is also a visiting professor of energy economics at the ESCP
Europe University in London.


1 James D Hamilton, “Historical Oil Shocks” Department of Economics.
University of California, San Diego. Revised: February 1, 2011.
2 “Petrodollar Profusion”, The Economist, April 26th, 2012.
3 Ibrahim M. Oweiss, “Petro-Money: Problems and Prospects,” in Inflation and
Monetary Crisis, ed. G. C. Wiegand (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press,
1975), pp. 84-85.
4 Jerry Robinson, “Preparing for the Collapse of the Petrodollar System”, FTM
5 Ibid.,
6 Ibid.,
7 Mamdouh G Salameh, “Economic & Financial Crisis Management in the
Light of Dwindling Oil Prices” (a lecture given at the invitation of the National
Defence College in Muscat, Oman on the 21st of April, 2015).
8 Ibrahim M Oweiss, “Petrodollars: Problems & Prospects” (a paper given at
the Conference on ‘The World Monetary Crisis’, Colombia University, March 1-
3, 1974).
9 Ibid.,
10 Ibid.
11 Jerry Robinson, “The Petrodollar Wars : The Iraq Petrodollar Connection”,
12 Ibid.,
13 Ibid.,
14 Mamdouh G Salameh, “Over a Barrel”, Joseph D. Raidy Printing Press sal,
Beirut, Lebanon, June 2004, p. 191.
15 Alan Greenspan, “The Age of Turbulence”, published by Penguin Books, USA,
in 2007, p.463.
16 Nabegh Al Sabbagh, “Opinion: Oil and Economics at a Geopolitical
Crossroad”, posted in Breaking Energy on April 28, 2015.
17 Mamdouh G Salameh, “Turning the Gaze Towards Asia: Russia’s Grand
Strategy to Neutralize Western Sanction” (a USAEE Paper Series No: 14-
168, posted on 19 July 2014).
18 Michael Snyder ”Russia is Doing it – Russia is Actually Abandoning the
Dollar”, posted on 11 June, 2014 on Infowars.com.
19 Preston James & Mike Harris, “ Putin’s Opportunity to Bust the US Petrodollar,
VT Veterans Today, 7 January 2015
20 A report by the ITAR-Tass News Agency.
21 Michael Snyder ”Russia is Doing it – Russia is Actually Abandoning the
22 Alastir Crook, “Expert: Oil Price Wars Fatally Wounded the Petrodollar”
(Interview with Zaman Today’s Daily (Turkish English-language Daily) on 15
February, 2015).
23 Addison Wiggin, “The US Energy Boom Will End the Dollar’s World
Reserve Status”, published in Daily Reckoning, was published in June 4, 2014.
24 Alastir Crook, “Expert: Oil Price Wars Fatally Wounded the Petrodollar”.
25 Javiar Blas, “Oil-Rich Nations Are Selling Off Their Petrodollar Assets at
Record Pace” Bloomberg, April 14, 2015.
26 Ibid.,
27 Nick Giambruno, “Ron Paul Says: Watch the Petrodollar System” Casey
28 Ibid.

A Short Biography
Dr Mamdouh G. Salameh is an international oil economist, a consultant for the
World Bank in Washington D.C. on oil and energy and also a technical expert
with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in
Vienna. He holds a PhD in Economics specializing in the economics &
geopolitics of oil and energy. Dr Salameh is also a visiting professor of energy
economics at the ESCP Europe University in London.
Dr Salameh has presented papers to numerous international energy
conferences on the economics and geopolitics of oil and energy and has been
frequently invited to lecture on these topics at universities around the world. He
has written three books on oil: “Is a Third Oil Crisis Inevitable?” (published in
London in April 1990), “ Jordan’s Energy Prospects & Needs to the Year
2010: The Economic Viability of Extracting Oil from Shale” (published in
London in October 1998) and “ Over a Barrel” (Published in the UK in June
2004) as well as numerous research papers published in international Oil and
Energy Journals. Dr Salameh has undertaken research assignments for the US
Department of Energy, the World Bank, the Institute of Energy Economics in
Japan, the Indian Government, OPEC, the Canadian Energy Research Institute,
Boston University working on the Encyclopedia of Energy and also the
Handbook of Energy and the government of Jordan among others. He regularly
appears on TV to discuss oil prices and other developments in the global oil
Dr Salameh is a member of many International Institutes and Associations
including the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE) in the US,
the British Institute of Energy Economics, the International Energy Foundation in
Canada, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, and
the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) in London. He is also an advisor
to the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre (ODAC), London.


What’s it like to be an INTJ in the military?

I didn’t serve in the military, I was in the Air Force. A joke from back then because the Air Force only had a 6 week basic training course and the hardest thing we had to do was fold our T-shirts in 6″ squares. Then active duty was incredibly comfortable. We had air conditioned tents and better meals in the desert deployments.

My service wasn’t as bad as I imagine it could be, especially given what it’s like now. I graduated high school early(15) and joined the AF when I was 16, in 1997. I didn’t even do high school, so I was still very young, especially emotionally. socially and worldly. A normal high school experience probably would have changed this drastically, looking back.

But, I went in as an Eagle Scout, so I got a stripe automatically, and I ended up being a leader through training. Basic was easy because my Training Instructor assigned me laundry, so I made everyone’s life easier by doing laundry everyday. We only had to fold our T-shirts in 6″ squares once and left our drawers alone the rest of the time. Doing laundry everyday also inadvertently got me out of a lot of marching practice.

I have to skip ahead, past even a few operations, like Kosovo, because they had no impact on me, to when 9/11 happened. Aside from exercises that my base had to do, because in war, we would have been the first hit by nuclear missiles, it was a really easy job. NORI, Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection. If I was a higher rank, those would have been easy too.

But then 9/11 happened. “Terrorists” attacked our country and we invaded Afghanistan for no reason at all. This is where the problem occurs. You can’t lie to us, you can only hope we’ll, INTJs, be ignorant. But we’re not.

Given that we’re in, I don’t know at this point officially, 7–9 wars, for no reason at all, any INTJ will have a hard time processing that. There is no proof other than “we said so”. That’s not good enough. There’s plenty of evidence that most of the wars we’re in are a waste of time and have no win conditions, other than securing oil in the middle east, which just seems more ridiculous when you consider global warming and the contribution fossil fuels play.

The U.S. military is the Department of Offense. It hasn’t played defense in it’s entire existence. The two times we were attacked, it was completely useless(Pearl Harbor and 9/11). You have to ignore a lot of moral objections to be an INTJ in the military, especially today.

I had an easy job on an easy base. I scheduled training sorties for the B-2 bombers. Four a day at most. I cannot express to you how easy I had it that I can even say I wasn’t completely miserable.

I think most INTJs in the military can’t stand it, but they are thinking about their/the future to get through it. It’s awful. It makes me wonder why other types don’t have the same morals, even though they claim to get the from a higher place.

Killing people is a horrible thing to be associated with when they did nothing wrong.

EDIT 2/2/2021:

I think this is relevant since it’s happened in the last few days and related to potential military action. Joe Biden, the guy who laughed in Paul Ryan’s face during a vice presidential debate about Iran having WMD’s, just incited the drums of war declaring that Iran will have enough nuclear material by the end of the year. Nothing relevant has changed.

Just speculation at this point, but war with Iran would mean WW3. Consider that before you consider joining the military. Also consider we’re only a month in and war is on their minds.

The wars in the middle east have nothing to do with terror or weapons, or maybe Israel wouldn’t be an undeclared nuclear state, it has everything to do with OIL. OPEC wants to build a pipeline across Iraq/Iran/Afghanistan and we’re now 20 years and three presidents displaced from when this project started.

If you’re an INTJ and you can square peg those round holes, good for you. Don’t know how any personality type could, but most don’t pay enough attention.

The ‘Mean Greens’ Are Forcing Exxon to Clean Up Its Act

Since the 1990s, the wisest oil-producing countries and companies have regularly reminded themselves of the oil patch adage that the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; it ended because we invented bronze tools. When we did, stone tools became worthless — even though there were still plenty on the ground.

And so it will be with oil: The petroleum age will end because we invent superior technology that coexists harmoniously with nature. When we do, there will be plenty of oil left in the ground.

So be careful, wise producers tell themselves, don’t bet the vitality of your company, community or country on the assumption that oil will be like Maxwell House Coffee — “Good to the last drop” — and pumped from every last well. Remember Kodak? It underestimated the speed at which digital photography would make film obsolete. It didn’t go well for Kodak or Kodachrome.

Alas, though, not every oil company got the memo.

One that most glaringly did not is the one that in 2013 was the biggest public company in the world! It’s ExxonMobil. Today, it is no longer the biggest. As a result of its head-in-the-oil-sands-drill-baby-drill-we-are-still-not-at-peak-oil business model, Exxon lost over $20 billion last year, suffered a credit rating downgrade, might have to borrow billions just to pay its dividend, has seen its share price over the last decade produce a minus-30 percent return and was booted from the Dow Jones industrial average.

But last week — finally — Exxon got the memo, in the form of a shareholder revolt in what was one of the most consequential weeks in the history of the oil and gas industry and shareholder capitalism.

I’ve long argued that if environmentalists want to have an impact on the climate they can’t be “nice greens.” They have to be “mean greens.” They have to be as mean and tough, as diligent and vigilant, as the industry they’re trying to change.

Well, last week a little hedge fund called Engine No. 1 delivered an unprecedented master class in mean green using the tools of democratic capitalism. A plucky, purpose-driven investment fund, Engine No. 1 set out to force Exxon to improve its financial returns by getting much more serious about gradually transitioning — through innovation and acquisitions — into being an energy company, not just an oil and gas company.

At Exxon’s annual meeting, Engine No. 1 offered up a slate for four new members of Exxon’s 12-member board. The four represent deep energy expertise and climate solutions. The slate committed to push the oil giant to a net-zero emissions strategy by 2050, more investments in clean energy systems and more transparency about Exxon’s energy transition, with metrics and milestones, as well as disclosure of its lobbying payments and partners, suspected of undermining the science around climate change.

And darn if half the slate — Gregory Goff and Kaisa Hietala — wasn’t immediately elected by wide margins, and at least one other member might be as well when ExxonMobil finishes counting the votes from its very, very bad day.

Engine No. 1 was successful because it got three of the four biggest pension funds in America — fed up with Exxon’s relentless value destruction — to vote for its nominees. We’re talking about the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and the New York State Common Retirement Fund. Also, three of the world’s biggest fund managers, Vanguard, State Street and Black Rock, which together own more than one-fifth of all Exxon stock, each voted for part of the dissident slate.

And if you are keeping score at home — on your Stone-Age-ending-before-we-run-out-of-stones scorecard — on the same day that Engine No. 1 landed at least two energy/climate experts on the Exxon board, Barron’s reported: “A Dutch court ordered European energy giant Royal Dutch Shell to slash its carbon emissions by a net 45 percent by 2030. And, at Chevron’s annual meeting, shareholders supported a nonbinding proposal to ask the company to cut carbon emissions generated by the use of its products.”

Engine No. 1 and its allies are not playing around, and for good reason. As CNN reported a few days earlier, citing a newly published Harvard study, “For decades, ExxonMobil has deployed Big Tobacco-like propaganda to downplay the gravity of the climate crisis.”

“The study used machine learning and algorithms to uncover trends in more than 200 public and internal Exxon documents between 1972 and 2019,” according to CNN, which quoted this statement from the study: “These patterns mimic the tobacco industry’s documented strategy of shifting responsibility away from corporations — which knowingly sold a deadly product while denying its harms — and onto consumers.”

Exxon’s existing board was noteworthy for one thing: Other than the C.E.O., it had one member — appointed only this year — who I would call an energy expert, and none steeped in climate expertise that could help the company adapt.

The two new directors will definitely help, but getting the third — conservationist Andy Karsner — would really shake things up. Exxon says the voting results are too close to call, and it needs more time to certify if Karsner won a seat.

Bloomberg reported: “Exxon telephoned investors the morning of the ballot — and even during an unscheduled, hourlong pause during the virtual meeting — asking them to reconsider their votes, according to several of those who received calls. Some said they found the last-ditch outreach and halt to the meeting unorthodox and troubling.”

I first got to know and respect Karsner watching him in action in 2007, when

he was an assistant secretary of energy for George W. Bush. He oversaw the U.S.’s National Laboratories’ applied science programs and negotiated America’s re-entry into the U.N.’s Convention on Climate Change at the Bali conference, which laid the pathway for the Paris global climate deal. Before that, Karsner built power plants in Pakistan and solar plants in Morocco.

He has been a longtime member of the board of Conservation International, as was my wife. In full disclosure, Karsner and I are now friends, but it’s his experience and outlook that recommend him here. If there were a picture in the encyclopedia of a “mean green,” it would be Karsner: tough as nails and green as grass.

Karsner, the other Engine No. 1 nominees and Engine No. 1 itself are out to strengthen Exxon, not destroy it. They view it as one of the world’s greatest collections of scientific and engineering talent. They welcome Exxon’s sudden enthusiasm for the idea of creating a $100 billion public-private carbon-capture facility along the Houston Ship Channel to sequester planet-warming carbon dioxide. They also know that demand for oil and gas for transportation, power generation and plastics is not disappearing overnight. Wisely managed money will be made there.

But in a world where Ford just unveiled an all-electric version of its F-150 full-size pickup truck, one of its top-selling vehicles, and says that it envisages electric cars and trucks making up 40 percent of its production by the end of the decade, they think Exxon has got to stop betting that the good ole days of oil and gas profits will return — and start becoming a more diversified energy company. That means not only investing more in future carbon capture, batteries and other renewables, but also using its engineering prowess to invent that future — while it still has an income stream from oil and gas.

Everyone knows it won’t be easy. Making the kind of profits that Exxon once piled up from oil and gas will be very, very hard as a more diversified energy company. But it beats becoming a corporate fossil by betting the house on increasingly unprofitable, increasingly obsolete, increasingly unhealthy fossil fuels.

Luke Gromen – Oil Cartel Siding With China Can Destabilize the Petrodollar

Sept 2018 prediction: early 2020 US Will have to monetize the debt

SBTV picks the mind of Luke Gromen, founder of Forest For The Trees LLC, about an impending dollar crisis and what likely scenarios can destabilize the petrodollar in the coming years. We also asked him what his ideal monetary system would be if he got to choose it. Forest For The Trees website: https://fftt-llc.com

Discussed in this interview:

05:08 Why a dollar crisis is coming?

12:14 US dollar still the center of the world?

13:07 Gold is wanted as a global neutral reserve asset.

14:35 Saudis’ view of the Petro-dollar: conflicted

23:10 A world where oil is priced in multiple currencies

28:33 No credible reserve currency alternatives to the dollar?

31:29 Bancor: A suitable replacement for the dollar standard?

34:08 How should investors navigate the impending dollar crisis?