Why you should care
Because fossil fuels mean big business — and a sea change in the balance of power.
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes in Astana — Kazakhstan’s futuristic new capital — to make you forget what little you may have assumed about the country. Until about a decade ago, it was “an insignificant provincial town,” according to the city’s lead architect. That’s when longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to move the capital to this empty stretch of grassland and build a city essentially from scratch. After more than $10 billion in investment, most of it fueled by the country’s oil boom, the result is a towering urban center of glass skyscrapers and gleaming domes, the physical embodiment of the country’s vision of itself as a 21st-century global player.
Angola’s got oil and heaps of other natural resources. And while it’s no model democracy, it’s signaling that it’s willing to play ball with the United States and Europe on some key shared interests. The country’s capital, Luanda, has once again outranked Tokyo, London and even Moscow as the world’s most expensive city in 2013. It’s just one of many ways that Angola’s immense oil wealth has transformed this vast Central African country of 20 million, rocketing it from war-torn backwater to one of Africa’s foremost economies in less than a decade — and sparking a rush of energy executives to the capital city, driving up costs, creating snarls of traffic and generally putting a strain on the crumbling infrastructure.
The latest trends in global energy supply are a very big deal: If you want oil and gas, you no longer have to look to Dubai or Riyadh. Look instead to North America, where the United States recently surpassed Saudi Arabia as the largest oil supplier in the world. You read that right. And if the energy boom continues on the track that oil-market analysts predict, it could just reshape global geopolitics as we know it. Booming domestic energy supplies mean cheaper fuel, more influence on the world stage and a potential resurgence of American industry.