Oil: A weapon with two sharp edges

The Amman Message is an avowal, issued on Nov. 9, 2004 by King Abdullah II of Jordan, calling for tolerance and unity in the Muslim world. The message ties to Jordan’s foreign policy objective to be a peaceful state in the Arab region.

Last week’s protests were anything but peaceful, however. Thousands flooded the streets after the Jordanian government mandated a 10 percent increase in the price of 90-octane diesel fuel. The increase was part of an effort to reduce the subsidy burden on the state budget.

Unfortunately, such price increases affect poor and rural household expenses disproportionally more than any other group. The increase largely depends on the degree of oil subsidies and oil consumption patterns within a country. Sure, the Jordanian government amended the fuel price increase due to instability in the region and other factors, but the question about what will happen in the future when the government is forced to pass down the costs of oil subsidies to the public remains.

I don’t intend to criticize the Jordanian government or to say the protests that took place were justified, but rather I seek to assess and bring forth the affects of volatile oil prices on the poor.

A 10 percent suggested hike is not chump change and would greatly impede on the majority of the population’s budget and lifestyle. To put it into perspective, imagine waking up tomorrow and discovering that the price of fuel was so high that going to work was no longer economical. On Sept. 12, 57 franchise owners in New Jersey and Pennsylvania advertised $9.99 per gallon of gasoline in protest of the high oil prices charged by Lukoil North America. The owners aren’t actually charging customers these outrageous prices; they are illustrating the fact that the high price of oil is passed onto consumers.

So, while Petra may be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and Amman is considered “one of the richest and most Western-oriented cities in the Middle East,” recent protests exhibit a growing national discontent over rising gas prices and the decisions being made by government officials. As for the United States, we must take action before fuel prices disrupt our way of life (as it has in Jordan and many other parts of the world).

There is an old Arabic proverb, “oil is the weapon with two sharp edges,” essentially translating into, “oil is a double-edged sword,” meaning: A benefit that is also a liability, or that carries some significant but non-obvious cost or risk.

The indirect impact of rising fuel prices – protests, famine, war and rising food prices due to transportation costs – can be reduced with an open fuel market for transportation fuels. We mustn’t undermine the severity of our oil addiction and the importance of cheaper, cleaner, American-made fuel choices in remedying our oil dependence.