"Energy superpower"--(second try)

Thu Jun 15 15:16:47 UTC 2006

        Both terms have been used on occasion for some years, with most
uses in the past two or three years.  They seem to refer to a country
that is a major producer of oil, rather than one that has large
reserves.  In concept, "energy superpower" should be broader, as it
would also refer to other forms of energy, such as natural gas and coal,
but in practice it seems to mean the big oil producers.  Here are the
earliest examples I found on Westlaw for each term.  Here's "oil
superpower," from Platts Oilgram News, 11/26/1986:

        <<Akins cautioned about exaggerating Saudi Arabia's influence in
OPEC. He noted that if Iran wins its war with Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the
other GCC members will face a local oil superpower, with prices soaring
quickly to $50/bbl or more. If neither side wins, the GCC will face two
"local superpowers" pushing for higher quotas to rebuild their
war-ravaged countries.>>

        And for "energy superpower," here's the Associated Press, from
3/15/1991.  PDVSA is the Venezuelan state oil company, Petroleos de

        <<The reactivation plan fits into PDVSA's program to become an
''energy superpower'' by the turn of the century, when its
production potential would be as high as 4 million barrels a day,
up from current 2.4 million barrels per day.>>

        If you add to this some information on "superpower," perhaps
from the OED, he should be all set.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Cohen, Gerald Leonard
Sent: Thursday, June 15, 2006 10:41 AM
Subject: Re: "Energy superpower"--(second try)

    Yesterday I forwarded to ads-l a  request for information from
Russian journalist Andrej Zlobin on "energy superpower" and "oil
superpower." Today I received confirmation from Mr. Zlobin that messages
sent to him will in fact arrive (a computer glitch yesterday has since
been cleared up), and so here goes again.

    Does anyone have any information on these expressions, both of which
seem to be an ordinary combination of two everyday words and neither of
which seems extraordinary in any way?  The only thing that comes to mind
is that I've never actually heard "energy superpower" and "oil
superpower" in reference to any of the countries with great reserves of
oil.  Somehow the expressions just aren't on the usual radar screens,
even though they're perfectly comprehensible once attention is drawn to

     Maybe the Russians are more concerned in general with the concept
of "superpower" than Americans are and perhaps the Russians see their
gas/oil reserves as increasingly important as a leverage for power.
Hence their interest in the expressions. Then, too, Iran has been
telling the world that the world needs Iran more than Iran needs the
world--or words to that effect.  So Iran may be viewing itself as having
superpower status via its oil.

      Does anyone else have anything to add that might be of help to our
Russian colleague?  Please respond both to him directly and to ads-l.
His message to me is reproduced below my signoff.

Gerald Cohen

> ----------
> From:         Andrey Zlobin
> Sent:         Wednesday, June 14, 2006 1:13 PM
> To:   Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> Subject:      Russian magazine
> Dear Mr. Gerald Cohen,
> My name is Andrey Zlobin. I am a correspondent for the Russian
magazine Smart Money (weekly edition of the daily newspaper Vedomosti).
> I am writing an article about the term Energy Superpower wich recently
is using concerning Russia.
> Could you give us some commentary by phone (or by e-mail) over the
> origin of this term, if there are difference entre ENERGY SUPERPOWER
> Thank you very much,
> Andrey Zlobin, Reporter
> Smart Money magazine, Russia (www.smoney.ru)
> E-mail: a.zlobin at vedomosti.ru
> Phone: (7 495) 232 3200 ext.1849
> Fax: (7 495) 232 9285, 232 1761

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