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Energy Independence to Protect U.S. National Security Interests

It is an inevitable truth that to protect the United States’ national security interests, we must become energy independent, or at least less energy reliant on foreign nations. American presidents since the Nixon era have expressed concern over U.S. dependence on foreign oil and a need to become more independent in oil production. And both President Obama and Governor Romney’s campaigns were fused with rhetoric surrounding this issue. But can energy independence become a reality or will it forever remain a pipe dream?

According to the White House, by 2011, the U.S. had increased its oil production to the levels found in the early 2000s. And U.S. dependence on foreign oil had dropped from sixty percent in 2005-2006 to less than fifty percent in 2011. Specifically, President Obama has pointed out that the U.S. reduced imports of foreign oil by ten percent between 2010 and 2011. However, the actual numbers reveal a more complex story. In 2011 the U.S. consumed more than 18.8 million barrels per day (MMbd) of petroleum products and only produced 5.7 MMbd. The sheer difference in these figures is staggering, but it emphasizes the need for greater energy independence and perhaps a look towards greener energy production.

As the U.S. remains dependent on foreign nations for a significant amount of our oil needs, we also remain tethered to them. However, following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, and President Obama’s moratorium on deep-water drilling operations in the Gulf, drilling at depths of more than 500 feet, U.S. production of domestic oil appeared to be slowing down. It was estimated that following the spill, oil production from offshore drilling would fall by thirteen percent.

Nevertheless, a 2011 decision by Judge Martin Feldman, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana, found the U.S. government in contempt and lifted the deepwater drilling ban. This decision and the subsequent lift of the moratorium nevertheless may not have had the desired effect of increasing domestic oil production.

Although shallow water drilling permits were not affected by the moratorium, and a significant number were issued in the year following the BP oil spill, the number of deepwater drilling permits issued was less expansive. Overall since 2006, the number of permits issued, both shallow and deep-water, has fallen by over sixty percent. Similarly, the amount of time for a permit to be approved has doubled from 154 days to 307 days on average. However, 2012 has seen a slight recovery, with more than 90 deep-water permits having been issued. This is more than the number of permits issued in 2010 and 2011 combined. Although U.S. oil production has seen a steady recovery this year, the BP oil spill and other oil related environmental disasters continuously require the U.S. to look to foreign nations for oil products.

But perhaps the BP oil spill, the subsequent moratorium, and court rulings on the off-shore drilling issue can teach us a valuable lesson about American energy consumption and production. In order to truly protect our national security interests, the United States needs to look to more sustainable and renewable energy resources. A greater investment in wind and solar energy resources and a move away from dependence on oil products may be the most significant way to protect our national security interests. By decreasing oil usage, the United States can become significantly less dependent on foreign oil producers, whether in the Middle East or in the western hemisphere, thereby protecting national security.

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