Reducing the US' dependency on energy imports, from the Middle East in
particular, has been a major policy issue for decades, and was a
recurring theme in this year's US presidential elections.
report released in the wake of the elections by the Paris-based
International Energy Agency (IEA) on November 12 stating that the US
could become the world's largest oil producer in a decade and be
self-sufficient in energy needs was resultantly warmly welcomed in North
Over time, the US would hypothetically be able to
finally wipe its hands of the Middle East's problems, and no longer be
hand-in-glove with Gulf monarchies in return for regular oil deliveries
and petrodollars pumped into the American financial system.
the world's largest energy consumer not buying from the region anymore,
this would free up Middle Eastern exports, with the IEA predicting that
more than 90 percent of the region's oil and gas trade would be
destined for Asia. The result would be a major shift in global
That is one take, that an energy self-sufficient US
would exit the Middle East if energy was removed from the equation.
However, there is a lot of hyperbole to this prediction.
the US becomes less import-reliant is largely dependent on domestically
extracting more oil and gas from shale - of which there has been a
bonanza over the past decade - but the fracking process is facing major
opposition due to environmental impacts and high greenhouse gas
When exports of US-produced energy and forecasts on
consumption are also factored in, the indicators suggest the US cannot
be independent. The US could only be largely self reliant with the
remainder coming from neighboring Canada.
This leads to the myth
about the US' over-reliance on Middle Eastern oil. Canada is in fact the
US' largest supplier of oil, at 29 percent, while the US' overall oil
imports from 2005 to 2011 fell from 60.3 percent of consumption to 47
percent. From the Persian Gulf, imports have dropped from 26.7 percent
to 18 percent of total imports, according to Energy Information
Administration figures, the lowest it has been in decades. Out of the
top 15 countries the US imports crude oil from, Middle Eastern countries
account for a third: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Algeria and Oman.
US has paid a high price for ensuring oil keeps flowing from the
Persian Gulf, with the Strait of Hormuz the conduit for over 20 percent
of the world's oil and 40 percent of traded oil. To project military
force in the Gulf, the US has spent an estimated $6.8 trillion between
1976 and 2007, according to research by Princeton's Energy Policy
department, averaging $492 billion annually between 2003 and 2008. With
6.2 billion barrels of oil transported through the Strait every year,
this means Washington is spending $79 a barrel to make sure that the US
and everyone else can fill their cars with Gulf oil.
has also spent an estimated $3 trillion on the invasion and occupation
of Iraq, which we were told was "not about oil," but tapping Iraq's
colossal energy reserves was of course a factor - Iraq is now the US'
seventh largest importer.
In essence, the US is acting as the
"world's policeman" to make sure that the global economic system keeps
operating. The question is if the US is going to give up that role in
the Middle East and, if so, who would step in to fill the vacuum? With
Asia more reliant on Gulf oil, would India and China do so?
if Asia's two major powers could, the US is not likely to give up its
current hegemonic role. More is at stake than the Middle East's oil and
Military contracts for one, with Gulf states last year
purchasing $66.3 billion of military hardware from the US, and Qatar
this month ordering $6.5 billion worth of missile-defense systems. That
is just the tip of the financial-military industrial complex iceberg.
such arms deals are related to the perceived threat of Iran getting
nuclear weapons and to contain Tehran, a common goal of the Gulf states,
Israel and its main backer the US. On top of this the Gulf states and
the US are trying to steer the outcomes of the Arab uprisings, from
Libya to Egypt and Syria.
Ultimately, even if the US could be
independent of Middle Eastern oil, it is unlikely to change its foreign
policy which has been expansionary for over a century.
decade is certainly too short a time for any major shift in policy to
occur when the US is operating according to long-term global spectrum