The U.S. as an Oil Exporter? What Effect Would It Have on U.S. Foreign Policy

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The U.S. as an Oil Exporter? What Effect Would It Have on U.S. Foreign Policy

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abr. 22, 2012, 12:12pm

I read an article today in the Globe and Mail that posed the question of what would happen to Canada's economy if the U.S. became an oil exporter. I thought the whole premise of the article was a little "out there," given how much oil the U.S. currently imports, until I noticed further down the article that Raymond James has said that the U.S. might not need to import any oil by 2020 and Wood Mackenzie has said that the U.S. might become an oil exporter by 2030. Those are some fairly reputable sources. And the trend in oil imports tends to agree. U.S. oil imports peaked in 2005 at 13.7 million bbl/day. They started to fall even before the economic crisis hit in 2008, and imports are now down to 11.4 million bbl/day as of last year.

There are three factors whose continuation might well get us to a very low import level within the next two decades: 1) the increased recovery of "tight" oil and natural gas, 2) increasing fuel efficiency requirements for vehicles that will be kicking in very soon, and 3) a steadily increasingly energy-efficient economy (i.e., an economy that produces $1 of GDP using less BTUs of energy). Oil consumption in the U.S. is driven by the transportation sector (around 73% of oil consumption in the U.S. is on transportation). Fuel efficiency standards for vehicles will help bite into that, but so will the rapidly falling price of natural gas. In the near future, transportation fleets, like buses and taxis, will likely be entirely natural gas fueled, and even a fair number of privately-owned vehicles will eventually run on natural gas.

Given that a future with very low (or even no) U.S. oil imports is a reasonable one to consider, what effect do you think that might have on U.S. foreign policy?

My hope is that we would be able to kiss the Middle East good-bye. Although, I suspect that wouldn't be the case, primarily because of Israel. And, unfortunately, what it would likely do is make U.S. foreign policy even more biased toward Israeli interests in the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off. It might also have some effect on U.S. policy toward Africa, but I doubt very much.

My big concern is that if China, the EU, and India do not also see comparable reductions in their oil imports, then the geopolitical considerations revolving around oil that would still greatly affect Chinese, Indian, and European states calculations would possibly cause a problem between the U.S. and them, or between themselves. We often here about the dangers of "resource" wars, but might the lack of common major interests, such as security revolving around the international oil trade, make one side or the other more adventuresome when it comes to foreign policy? For example, might knowing that the U.S. would not be so concerned with securing oil resources in the Middle East make China more likely to get itself deeply involved in the region and thereby come into conflict with the U.S. over other, non-resource-based issues (basically those involving the Arab-Israeli situation)?

If anyone takes the time to read through this whole post, I'd like to hear your opinions.