Oil is the most valuable commodity in world trade, so any significant change in its price—whether upward or downward—has far-reaching economic consequences. Because oil also plays a pivotal role in world politics, such shifts can have equally momentous implications for international relations. It is hardly surprising, then, that the recent plunge in prices has generated headlines around the world. Many giant energy firms have announced massive cutbacks in employment and investment, and major producing countries like Russia and Venezuela have been forced to scale back government expenditures. While some analysts speculate that prices have now reached bottom and will soon begin climbing again, there are good reasons to believe that this descent is not just another cyclical event but rather the product of something far more profound and durable.