"Petro-authoritarianism." Now that's a mouthful.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman used the term to refer to oil-rich regimes in the developing world that funnel profits into the pockets of the powerful — and turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor.
Friedman puts Venezuela, Kazakhstan, Sudan and others in this category — countries where large oil and natural gas reserves lead to corruption, wasteful spending, military adventurism and instability.
U.S. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) includes Nigeria, the world's eighth-largest oil exporter, on that list. "Despite half a trillion dollars in revenues since the 1960s, poverty has increased, corruption is rife, and violence roils the oil-rich Niger Delta," he writes in the Christian Science Monitor.
"The Petroleum and Poverty Paradox," a report from Lugar's U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calls for improved financial transparency from governments and oil companies. It also requests international assistance to help resource-rich countries better manage their revenue.
Lugar argues it's up to the U.S. to set the standard by demonstrating its own accountability. The first step, he says, is to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a voluntary program that audits each participating country's oil and gas royalties.
With oil prices guaranteed to eventually spike as rapidly as they've dropped, Lugar writes, "Reversing the [resource] curse is in everyone's interest."