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The United States on Global Energy Governance - Gökberk Bilgin

The United States, as the most influential political actor in the 20th century, topped the energy consumption for many decades. They established bilateral relationships with oil-producing countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Canada. The American government established many different military bases to chokepoints of the oil market, such as Strait of Hormuz. All effort was made to ensure supply security. After the Americans lived the consequences of the 1973 Oil Crises, they focused on the supply security more intensively and increased their activities in these regions and in the international political arenas. The new rules, such as storing the same part of the oil, helped them to survive the following oil crisis with receiving less damage.

Today, on the other hand, the United States produces more oil than most of the OPEC countries, and it is expected to be the net exporter in the future. However, this does not guarantee becoming an energy-independent country. There are several reasons for that, and in this section, we are going to discuss each of them. The first reason is that despite the United States produces more oil than most countries today, and they still depend on the diversity of different types of oil that OPEC provides. Therefore, even the amounts of imports declined, they continue to buy Saudi oil and other refined products such as gasoline and diesel from other countries.

The impact of the Abqaiq attack on Saudi oil facilities showed that the U.S. gasoline market still vulnerable to foreign attacks. Since the oil prices determined by the global markets, any event has the potential to affect the American energy sector and even national security. Charles Glaser, in his study, How Oil Influences U.S. National Security, works on these dynamics and explains why global events have an impact on American national security.

Glaser claims that the scholars working on energy issues does not link the possibilities for international conflict, and it creates an important gap in their analysis. Today, not only the United States’ oil demand but the demand for other major powers have an impact on American interests. For example, China is a growing economy and investing huge amounts of money on its military sector and consistently looks for opportunities to increase its impact against the American hegemony. If this country, find access to more amount of oil, they will be able to threaten the United States more effectively. Therefore, it is the U.S.’s responsibility to limit Chinese activities in the oil-producing regions. The sanction policies against Venezuela and Iran limit oil to reach Chinese soil to a certain degree, but the United States must keep their presences in the critical regions to protect its national interests.

In his, article Glaser introduces several key variables that might have an impact on American national security. The first of them is dependence. Glaser states that the more the United States consumes, the larger the negative impact of global price increases on its economy. Even when the United States achieves oil independence, the economy will remain sensitive to disruptions in the global supply of oil. We see that Glaser’s statement is accurate in predicting the outcomes of attack to the Saudi facilities, as we mentioned above. It brings us to another key variable, energy intensity.

We can define the energy intensity as the amount of energy required to produce a unit of output. According to Glaser’s study, the U.S. energy intensity has declined by approximately 50% since the late 1970s, and the U.S. Energy Administration projects a 50% drop more by 2040. If the United States manages to drop the consumption of the energy intensity, then we can expect that higher oil prices might have a positive impact on their economy. However, this also depends on the demand for U.S. petroleum. Today, they are not producing the type of oil that most of the world demands. If the structure of the demand mechanism changes in the future, they might enjoy higher revenues in that sector.

Overall, despite having a vast amount of oil and natural gas resources, the U.S. dependence still continues. The rising powers in Asia threaten the American position in international politics, and to decrease its impact, the United States should focus on limiting their access to energy resources. Up to now, the American government manages to do this by applying sanctions and using military forces.

Yet, as Glaser points, these policies create vulnerability on military capability and economic prosperity. While following such policies on an international level, they should also focus on lowering their domestic consumption and energy intensity level.


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