The shale factor in U.S. national security
The shale surge has boosted production by 50 percent for oil and 20 percent for gas over the last five years. Yet our political leaders are only just beginning to explore how it can help further national strategic interests.
We led a major study at the Center for a New American Security in the last year, bringing together a nonpartisan panel to examine national security implications of the unconventional energy boom. We decided that outdated idealization of “energy independence” is preventing the administration and Congress from focusing on current energy vulnerabilities and figuring out how Washington should secure our economic and security interests.
Though the United States now imports less oil than it has for more than a dozen years, we should not distance ourselves from international oil markets by pursuing full energy self-sufficiency. The best way to advance energy security is to remain engaged internationally with major energy players.
Rather than abandoning Middle Eastern partners with whom our energy trade ties are shrinking, Washington must consider that their ability to supply stable energy resources to consumers — including our key trade partners — is in the U.S. national interest.
With declining U.S. defense budgets, a foreign-policy rebalance to Asia and major Middle Eastern political upheaval, Washington must embrace a new approach to advancing energy and security interests. Greater U.S.-Asian security collaboration to protect Gulf oil exports to Asian markets is key. So is a focus on additional, non-maritime strategies for safeguarding supplies — including improved coordination of U.S. and international strategic energy stockpiles.
Washington can also promote U.S. energy and national security with more efficient energy use from varied energy sources. This will reduce our economy’s exposure, and vulnerability, to oil market price spikes. With shale helping to lower energy prices, now would be a good time to set policies of greater efficiency and diversity of supply.
Increased U.S. energy supply — and the domestic manufacturing renaissance it has supported — will also make us more secure. We urge policy leaders to make tax and permitting terms less cumbersome, while ensuring strong environmental standards to limit emissions and groundwater contamination associated with drilling.
In addition, policymakers must encourage infrastructure building and development, to remove bottlenecks that are constraining production and supply flow. The government task force now preparing our nation’s first Quadrennial Energy Review should offer clear recommendations along these lines.
Energy exports, particularly to our Asian allies, would also strengthen strategic links. These exports should be viewed as a tool of economic statecraft that can help keep international markets supplied and global prices stable. In addition, it would strengthen the power of U.S. sanctions on countries like Iran, while lessening their impact on U.S. consumers and increasing international collaboration.
Amid domestic fiscal constraints, war fatigue and destabilizing international conflicts, the United States should take advantage of energy policies and economic statecraft that can make us safer. This is an opportunity for greater competitiveness, economic resiliency and international influence that the United States must not lose.
PHOTO (TOP): A worker walks through the construction site of Dominion’s fractionation plant near New Martinsville, West Virginia, March 6, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Cohn
PHOTO (INSERT): Pump jacks are seen in the Midway Sunset oilfield, California, April 29, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson