As if Gas Prices Weren't High Enough
With the price of a barrel of crude oil flirting with the $120 mark and speculation that the price of a gallon of gasoline could reach $10 comes fresh news of further unrest in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region. Twin blows have forced Nigeria's petroleum production below 50% of normal output. A strike by ExxonMobil workers over working conditions and compensation has nearly shuttered all of that company's production, while a series of attacks on pipeline infrastructure by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta have severely hampered Royal Dutch Shell's production. MEND's leader, Henry Okah, is currently on trial in Nigeria for his role as commander of the terrorist organization. According to Reuters:
Rebels from Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta said on Monday an April 24 pipeline attack had shut down 350,000 barrels a day of production by Royal Dutch Shell, and a company spokesman was not available for comment. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) said that attack brought to more than 500,000 barrels a day of Shell's production affected by its recent attacks. Shell said last week a previous bombing had hit 169,000 barrels a day of output.
As a huge warren of oil pipelines and other facilities dots the swamp-like Niger Delta, completely securing the assets is near impossible and little sophistication is needed to successfully destroy them. Combined with evidence that the Nigerian military is disinclined to take on MEND, this situation provides further evidence, if any more was needed, for why the United States must find alternatives to foreign petroleum. Africa has been taking on a greater importance as a source of oil for the U.S. in the hopes that it would provide a more stable and less hostile supplier than the nations of the Middle East. Unfortunately, the ability of MEND to impact world oil prices shoots huge holes in any such aspirations.