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The crude case of US energy dominance

From the quest of ‘energy independence’ to ‘energy dominance,’ the US has travelled a significant distance.

Last Tuesday in his State of the Union address President Donald Trump hinted at the possibility of US energy dominance, underlining that the ‘war’ on American energy is over.

“We have ended the war on American energy and we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal,” he reiterated.

With the new found US energy resilience, this was all President Trump had to say in his address.

Times have indeed changed. Energy is no more the crowd puller in Washington as it used to be in the days gone by.

With domestic output crossing the 10 million barrels per day (bpd) mark last November – highest in last seven decades – the US is now lining up among the top three global energy producers along with Saudi Arabia and Russia.

But the credit for reducing the US reliance on imported energy does not really go to the current administration, analysts agree. Most of it took place while President Obama was still in the White House.

The US Energy Information Agency reported only last December, that the US crude oil and petroleum products exports had more than doubled between 2010 and 2016.

The jump in US crude output also carries significant geo-political consequences.

While during Obama’s reign, if the US could refrain from giving into Riyadh’s demand to actively pursue the objective of ousting President Assad of Syria, many felt it was basically because of less US reliance on Saudi crude. In the calculation of the current administration too, this factor is definitely weighing up. The decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is a manifestation of the new-found belligerence, courtesy the shale revolution, in Washington’s attitude towards its Arab ‘friends’.

The 10m bpd oil production milestone gives the US more leverage with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East, Richard Kauzlarich, co-director of the George Mason University’s Center for Energy Science and Policy, was quoted as saying.

“We’re not beholden to every political crisis that arises in that part of the world from the cost of our energy,” said Kauzlarich, who was the US ambassador to Azerbaijan during the Clinton administration.

“Sure, the more oil you produce, the more insulated you are against a supply disruption, a physical shortfall in supply,” wonderful friend Antoine Halff, the director of the global oil markets programme at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy was quoted by Platts as saying.

Despite the spectacular growth in the US output, domestic demand in the country will remain roughly double the domestic supply. As per EIA projections, crude oil production in 2018 is to average 10.27m bpd while total consumption is to average 20.31m bpd.

“No country is an energy island, no matter what the consumption levels are, no matter what the supply levels are,” Halff added.

To achieve energy dominance, the US is giving up its leadership role in many areas. Trump’s claim of ending “the war on American energy and on beautiful clean coal” is likely a reference to his plans to repeal Obama’s implementation of carbon emissions restrictions on coal-fired electricity plants.

With the decreasing US dependence on imported oil, the mention of energy was almost in passing in President Trump’s State of the Union address, while his predecessors had used the occasion to emphasise on energy independence.

“The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades,” President Obama said in his State of the Union address in January 2014, doubling down on the energy agenda that included elevated oil and gas production along with action on climate.

President George W. Bush in his January 2007 State of Union address was seen clamouring for energy independence. “For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments,” President Bush said, proposing to double the quantity of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserves of the country.

With climate change environment pushed to side lines, we now seem living on a completely different planet. The US is rapidly losing, not only its stature under the new president, but also the moral authority to lead the world. A rather sorry state of affairs in many ways.
Source: The Dawn

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