We have all heard about the tremendous success that the shale revolution has had on limiting the United States’ dependence on foreign oil. In a recent World Oil article, it was reported that Saudi Arabia has started to lose some market share in the U.S. as the supply of inexpensive domestic oil increases. Domestic oil production as a result of hydraulic fracturing has increased by 65% in the past five years and a lot of the imports we are accepting are now coming through pipelines from Canada. Could we see less U.S. interaction in world affairs as the need to maintain a steady oil supply from abroad decreases?
In a Washington Examiner article by Paul Bedard, it was reported that foreign influence on U.S. energy is still a threat, but in a significantly different way. Former government officials are now warning Washington D.C. that organizations, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (“ISIS”), may target domestic electric grids. And their potential success at disrupting these grids is significant given the fact that the grids are so poorly secured.
As the article reports, Frank Gaffney, who founded and presides over the Center for Security Policy, believes that should the power in the U.S. be knocked out for over a year, “nine out of 10 Americans would likely perish.” This seems extremely high, but taking the domino effect into consideration, it is not that surprising since water systems, hospitals, banks, and refrigeration capacities would fail as a result of a power outage. Further, city transportation services would face serious problems.
FOREIGN INFLUENCE ON U.S. ENERGY IS STILL A THREAT, BUT IN A SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT WAY
The report even cited a few instances where Mexican drug cartels succeeded in shutting down the power in areas of Mexico for the purpose of carrying out the murders of those fighting the drug trade. With an organization as heavily funded as ISIS, the potential to recruit these cartels that have experience in shutting down electrical operations is not out of the realm of possibility.
So our dependence on foreign oil may be lessening, but foreign influence over the U.S. energy sector is far from eliminated.