Unrest in the Middle East over the last six months has drawn the public’s focus to the serious vulnerabilities of energy markets and the countries tied to those markets. A recent op-ed by GAIN strategic adviser and former Major General James “Spider” Marks published in Inside Sources describes the latest and breaks down how the United States can bolster its national security and the global energy market: increase domestic energy production and exports to allies.
Marks describes the current state of play, noting:
Tensions in the Middle East escalated to a tipping point earlier this month when Iran launched ballistic missile attacks on U.S. and coalition military forces in Iraq. The offensive, which the regime acknowledged as retaliation for a U.S. drone strike days earlier that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force, brought relations between the United States and Iran closer to the brink of conflict than at any time since the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.
In addition to this month’s attacks, there have been several instances that show the growing instability of the international energy market. Notably, the Iranian government launched a missile strike against two Saudi oil facilities last year, temporarily disrupting the flow to roughly 5 percent of the world’s supply. Furthermore, last year in the Strait of Hormuz, a critical shipping lane for about 20 percent of the world’s oil, Iran attacked mines, specifically going after U.S. oil tankers. In April, internal conflict in Libya also threatened to upend the global oil supply.
These disturbances in the global oil supply would have been cause for serious energy security concerns in the U.S. a decade ago, but not anymore. The U.S. is now the top producer of oil and natural gas in the world, effectively counterbalancing Middle East and OPEC countries’ leverage on energy. In fact, the U.S. has more than doubled its oil production from 5 million barrels per day in 2008 to almost 13 million barrels per day at the end of last year.
But as Marks points out, the U.S.’ incredible energy growth our country will require investment – from increasing production and refining to developing modern energy infrastructure to get the product to market. The op-ed notes:
That growth requires new pipelines, the safest and most effective form of energy transportation, to keep products moving from well sites to consumers. Yet, output remains well ahead of capacity in many areas, like West Texas’ Permian Basin, where bottlenecks have been so severe that drills have had to pay buyers to take natural gas off their hands. In other areas pipeline shortages prevent products from reaching consumers, like in the Northeast, where energy prices are known to spike during harsh winters despite proximity to the Utica and Marcellus shale plays.
Marks concludes by encouraging American policymakers to prioritize energy development and infrastructure, as energy investment will allow the U.S. to reach its full potential, and establish our long-term energy independence.