The US as a nation consumes more than anyone else, virtually at the expense of everyone else. The petrodollar system has ensured that imports into the US have been cheap and readily available. Post 1945, Washington has been able to take full advantage of the labour and the material resources of poor countries.

Consider that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80 percent of world population but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. Also bear in mind that US citizens constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but consume 24 percent of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians.

The US is able to consume the way it does because of high demand for the US dollar: it is the world reserve currency. This demand for the dollar is guaranteed as most international trade is carried out using it. The international monetary system that emerged from the Bretton Woods Conference near the end of the Second World War was based on the US being the dominant economic power and the main creditor nation, with institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund eventually being created to serve US interests.

Ever since, the US has been able to lever the trade and financial system to its advantage. For example, in the seventies the spike in the price of oil allowed a huge flow of Saudi Arabia’s oil profits to Washington through that country purchasing US treasury bonds. At the same time, countries that were attempting to escape from the yolk of European colonialism in Africa were hit hard by the rising cost of oil. It was a win-win situation for Washington. The US could lend the Saudi-invested oil profits to these cash-strapped nations and thus ensure their continued servitude (especially when interest rates increased), this time to Washington.

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