Just a decade ago, the prospect of U.S. energy independent was a dream, and not a very likely one at that. But today with the shale oil boom and increased vehicle energy efficiencies, energy self-sufficiency, if not actual energy independence, is on the horizon.
By 2017, the U.S. is poised to become the world’s leading oil producer, overtaking Saudi Arabia, according to the International Energy Agency. As welcome as this will be in many quarters in the U.S., this sea change in geopolitics has the potential to be extremely destabilizing to the current global economic and political world order.
The Wall Street Journal notes some of the implications in an article U.S. Oil Boom Divides OPEC. The onslaught of crude oil about to flow from the U.S., which is already starting to meet some of the U.S. own needs for crude oil, is setting Middle Eastern and African OPEC members against each other, with African nations lobbying for production cuts, while other members who depend on oil revenue want to continue higher production levels regardless of the direction of prices.
OPEC members have squabbled for years, so what? Well, this is just the beginning. Since the oil embargo of the 1970s, the geopolitical landscape has been shaped by the current energy dynamic. Lower oil prices and eventual lower oil production in the Middle East and OPEC member countries in South America in Africa could destabilize dictatorships and make the Arab Spring seem like a walk in the park.
While the U.S. might welcome the prospect of pulling back from an active role in the Middle East, there is still Israel to consider and the fact that U.S. energy independence could spark political unrest at the least or revolutions at the worst. It seems likely that we as a nation won’t be able to back off from involvement in the Middle East and may have to become more involved around the world as a global peacemaker and policeman.