We Need An American Energy Plan — ‘Strait’ Away
January 18, 2012
One-fifth of the world’s oil trade passes through a six-mile wide sea traffic lane in the Strait of Hormuz, bounded on one side by the Islamic Republic of Iran and on the other by the Arabian Peninsula.
An average of 14 oil tankers travel through the strait each day on their way to deliver fuel to Europe, Asia, and the United States.
Cutting off this supply line would propel soaring energy prices and cripple economies around the world. That is exactly why Iran’s regime has threatened to close the Strait in retaliation if the United States or Europe takes serious steps to punish its pursuit of a nuclear weapon.
It’s not exactly an idle threat.
Such a narrow chokepoint, the U.S. military has acknowledged Iran could likely close the Strait for a period using mines and conventional naval forces or even with more crude tactics like sinking barges in the shipping lanes. Iran recently spent 10 days conducting naval exercises in the area to prove it could close the Strait, and earlier this month armed Iranian speedboats harassed two U.S. Navy vessels in separate incidents.
Even if Iran is unlikely to prevail in a naval conflict with the United States, the regime is so unpredictable that such a conflict could be dangerous and disruptive.
With Europe confronting recession and the United States coping with slow growth and high unemployment, the spike in gas prices that would result could not come at worse time.
The Iranian regime wants to force America and Europe to choose between higher energy prices and deterring its nuclear development.
Either outcome—an Iranian nuclear weapon or economic disaster from an oil shock—should be unacceptable to Americans. After all of Iran’s threats surrounding the Strait of Hormuz, how big a warning do we need to have an American energy policy that makes us independent from such conflicts?
Our energy supply should not be hostage to the whims of a dangerous and erratic regime when we have enormous untapped resources right here in the United States.
A real American energy policy would employ offshore oil and natural gas development, domestic oil shale, wind, biofuels, clean coal and nuclear energy to eliminate our dependence on oil from an unstable and unfriendly region of the world.
America should never be faced with a choice either to appease regimes like Iran’s or to hinder our economy.
The obstacles to an American energy policy are political, bureaucratic, and ideological.
For instance, we have an estimated three times more oil than Saudi Arabia locked up in oil shale in western states, much of which is banned from development. That’s just the beginning. Oil and natural gas worth hundreds of billions of dollars is sitting just off our coasts in land the American people own but which the Obama administration refuses to allow to be developed.
Since the President reneged in 2010 on a promise to allow oil and natural gas exploration on the federal lands of the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf, states along the East Coast have been denied what could become an important source of revenue, tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, and most of all a new source of American energy.
There are an estimated $28 billion worth of oil and natural gas off South Carolina and almost $64 billion off Virginia.
Oil and gas resources worth hundreds of billions are likely available off the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts of the United States.
Even these estimates might be lower than the true American energy potential. Predictions for the East Coast, for instance, are based on decades-old seismic research done with obsolete technology. Such outdated assessments have often dramatically underestimated the potential of American energy.
The estimate of the Bakken formation in North Dakota has jumped 25-fold, 2,500 percent, since 1995 due to new technology.
The amount of natural gas in shale has increased our estimated supply of natural gas by more than 15-fold, 1,500 percent, in the last decade.
The administration’s regulatory barriers to American energy development—and for that matter, its indecision on the Keystone XL pipeline—are needlessly crippling our economy, thwarting thousands of good jobs, and keeping our energy supply vulnerable to Iranian aggression.
Undoubtedly, the United States should do anything required to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. But when President Obama is faced with the prospect of using military action to preserve oil routes a few miles from Iran’s shore at the same time as he denies so much energy potential here at home, his priorities are profoundly wrong.