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Perry World House hosted a discussion on Nov. 29 about the current state of global energy prices. Credit: George Botros

The Perry World House held a discussion on global energy prices, which have skyrocketed due to various factors, including OPEC’s decision to cut oil production.

The event took place Tuesday and featured three speakers: Angela Pachon, research director of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, Robert Vitalis, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, and Benjamin L. Schmitt, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The speakers — who also attributed the increased energy prices to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine — covered a range of topics concerning global energy markets and geopolitics.

Pachon described the current inflation as “unprecedented" and added that "a perfect storm of macroeconomic and energy policy factors have created an unprecedented energy crisis."

She also noted that the consequences of the energy crisis are unevenly distributed across the globe. European and Asian markets are much more dependent on Russia for gas and oil than the American market, she added, and have generally fared worse as a result.

Additionally, Pachon said, America has experienced less of a negative impact because of its diverse range of energy sources.

Vitalis argued that OPEC’s decision to cut oil production, led chiefly by Saudi Arabia’s prime minister Mohammed bin Salman, is “decidedly not contributing to the [energy] crisis.”

Many scholars and analysts have argued that the decision to cut production, which came after President Joe Biden visited Riyadh to dissuade him from doing so, was done with the intent to hurt the Biden presidency.

Vitalis disagreed, countering this argument and adding that OPEC’s production cuts have had “no effect on the energy crisis.”

The United States, he said, has continued to do more than any other country to curb oil production through its sanctions on countries like Iran and Russia.

“It is the United States that reduces the supply of energy to the world, and they’ve been doing that for decades,” Vitalis said.

When asked if there was an alternative to American sanctions, Vitalis said that such a question was out of his scope. He maintained, though, that the U.S. is “the problem.”

Schmitt spoke about how geopolitics, specifically the war in Ukraine, has shaped the energy crisis. 

The destruction of energy infrastructure by the Russians is “directly aimed at creating a humanitarian crisis,” Schmitt said.

He also discussed possible alternatives to sanctions. Schmitt said that price caps are an attractive option, but should only be seen as a tool in the short run. He said that in the long run, price caps are inadequate and that the West should look for longer-term solutions, such as a larger-scale embargo.

Schmitt nevertheless urged the audience to not “yield to Ukraine fatigue.” Doing so, he argued, would mean victory for the Russians.