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Energy Squeeze

Serving as an excellent primer on the outlook for challenges to American energy security - rooted in foreign dependence - Fred Stakelbeck has written an excellent article aptly titled Energy Squeeze.

The international energy market of the twenty-first century is witnessing an unprecedented period of turmoil and instability, an indication of an indisputable global power shift that holds serious, long-term implications for U.S. national security interests throughout the world.

Acting in silent unison, energy-rich governments in the Middle East, Eurasia and South America, in particular, populist dictator Hugo Chavez of Venezuela; Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmandinejad; China’s stoic President Hu Jintao, and Russia’s enigmatic President Vladimir Putin, have demonstrated a growing penchant for energy-related controversy and confrontation. No longer satisfied with Western-defined progress, these countries have become emboldened players on the world stage, using commodities such as crude oil, natural gas and mineral deposits as weapons against perceived U.S. hegemony.

The ultimate goal of this new energy alliance is to eventually humble the U.S. as the world’s undisputed political, economic and military power forcing it’s withdraw from the world stage by using energy as a sledgehammer for international change. Acting independently, these countries can attain, at best, only marginal influence and power. Acting together, however, they become formidable adversaries.

The power of energy as a weapon for capitulation was demonstrated in late 2005 when Russian oil conglomerate Gazprom used the “energy weapon” against former Soviet republic Ukraine. By temporarily cutting off natural gas supplies to the western-leaning government of Viktor Yushchenko and ignoring standing contractual obligations, Moscow gave an early glimpse of how its new energy-based foreign policy could be used to persuade and punish.

As a direct result of the Russia-Ukraine dispute, alleged energy distribution “difficulties” were reported by Moscow which resulted in natural gas supplies to Europe being substantially cut, raising the ire of European leaders such as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. In hindsight, Chancellor Merkel’s reaction is understandable. Europe’s reliance on Russian crude exports has risen from 9 percent of total crude imports in 1995 to 29 percent in 2006. Energy industry experts predict the EU will import 90 percent of its oil and 80 percent of its natural gas within 20 years as onshore and offshore fields become mature. Although the Russia-EU crisis was eventually resolved, it provided a “dry run” exercise for Moscow and proved once again what most of Europe’s leaders knew all along – that energy is the EU’s “Achilles heel.”

Regarding the energy "Achilles heel," Fred goes on to explain why the EU is not its sole proprietor, and the actors driving toward an economic confrontation.

Read the rest here.

3 Comments

A very telling piece indeed and in a way proves one of the corollaries of the Iraq War that a US military presence in an oil producing country in the Middle East was in the best interest of the US and Iraq was ripe for such an adventure.

It is no secret that Russia, China, and the USA are adversaries in the quest for world economic domination. And oil is currently the key to that quest. With this in mind, what is the US waiting for to develop meaningful alternate sources of energy??? Maybe this is the time, with gasoline prices nearing $4/gal and will probably stay near this number.

TW is wise in returning attention to the interplay of the world's major states. While the interests of these can collide they can also align, as in the case of common dangers from non-state actors.
As concerns America's energy position, we must distinguish between needs for electric power generation, transportation fuel, and food - also an energy need. There really is no intrinsic "national problem" regarding power generation - the issue is present reliance on coal, of which we have plenty. Since this is now a "no-no" the long-term solution will have to be nuclear. The upcoming crisis will be in the area of transportation fuel. Yes, "oil" but also domestic refinery capacity - hated by the NIMBYs. Finally, food is in fact the U.S.' ace-in-hand. And agricultural produce in biofuel form may mitigate the transportation fuel vulnerability.
Where some diminution in America's energy "autarky" does bring with it geo-military challenges is in the area of maritime security for our trade routes. We may need to resurrect Admiral Mahan's doctrine that America is primarily a naval and now air power. Fewer land campaigns to install "democracy"? Unjustly cashiered Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld may well be vindicated.

I would suggest an organization of Free Energy Nations built upon not just nuclear, coal, but other alternatives in PHEVs, EVs for transport.

BioFuels cannot offset our imports. They can only help in migration to more efficient technology.

Ultimately solar, battery will have to come in larger play. There have been recent breakthrus in R&D, with regards to solar efficients and lithium-ion batteries, plus testing facilities are improving dramatically so engineers can watch how design increases or degrades efficiency. Ultimately, we must get off of oil dependence.

The axis of Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China, Sudan and more combinations with ME instability tell us these countries have no inclination at all for freedom of their people or ours.

This is every bit as much a part of the war as our physical military. If oil were to drop back down to $20-30/bbl it would hurt Russia, Iranian, Saudi, Venezuelan ambitions.

We are funding our enemies. The faster we stop funding them, the faster their tyrannical regimes fall.

lithium-ion battery announcement May 23rd.
http://www.lithiumtech.com/pr51407.htm

Faster please indeed.