Tony Blair: Oil boom can ease West’s dependency on Middle East

The world is increasingly interdependent, making it difficult for any nation to prosper in isolation, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a Houston audience Wednesday.

Blair, who served from 1997 to 2007, also described some key differences in British and U.S. politics — the campaign for Britain’s top office lasts four weeks — discussed development in China and Africa, and reflected on the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

In a luncheon keynote speech at KPMG’s Global Energy Conference, Blair said European nations, like the U.S., are uneasy with their reliance on oil and gas from the Middle East, and said the boom in production from shale may ease some of the need for energy from that often tumultuous region.

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In describing the short transition period for British top government leadership, he said it means a lot of on-the-job training.

The outgoing prime minister leaves No. 10 Downing Street, the executive’s residence and office, with suitcase in hand minutes before the new one arrives, he said.

“You come to power, and the ‘now what’ comes immediately and is the difficult part, when all the choices are ugly,” Blair said.

One lesson is that crises don’t come sequentially, but often simultaneously.

In discussing energy issues, he said the pace of China’s energy technology development will be key to meeting its growing demand, but expressed optimism that the world’s most populous nation will have a benign economic and political evolution.

He described the U.S.-China relationship as “a defining issue for the U.S.”

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Blair had other advice for Britain’s ally across the Atlantic. “Give up on wanting to be loved for being the world’s super power,” he said, but understand that “people around the world look to the U.S. as a beacon of hope.

Of Thatcher, who was prime minister from 1979 to 1990 and died April 8, Blair said the politician sometimes known as the “Iron Lady” was gracious on an individual level, but also taught him through her no-holds-barred politics “that the best lessons are learned through the process of humiliation.”