U.S. energy security shouldn’t lead to isolation, Bolton says

The United States’ rising energy independence should not encourage the nation to adopt isolationist policies or weaken its military position in the world, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton said during an energy conference Tuesday.

Bolton, who served as UN ambassador under Pres. George W. Bush, said countries like Russia and China are using their oil and natural gas resources to strengthen their militaries and influence global politics.  If the United States does the opposite, it would leave a vacuum of global leadership and destabilize key regions of the world, Bolton said.

“If we pull back from the world under the belief that it will not have any real impact, we are just kidding ourselves,” he said.

Bolton spoke to energy industry insiders during the Deloitte Oil & Gas Conference held Tuesday at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

The International Energy Agency projects that the United States will surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2020. Technological advances have led to production of crude oil and natural gas from hard-to-reach reservoirs in dense shale rock around the country, leading to an oil boom in the United States.

“That fact is that our interest will remain global,” Bolton said. “Even if on energy these happy projections come through, the rest of the world’s economy is still going to float on somebody else’s oil.”

Bolton highlighted Russia, where he said President Vladimir Putin has used the nation’s wealth of oil and natural gas and its control of pipelines to reassert control over Eastern Europe and assert geopolitical influence throughout the region.

“Putin and his cohorts have been able to take advantage of the global price of oil over the past several of years to upgrade, to modernize and rationalize Russia’s conventional military forces,” Bolton said. “Russia’s newfound  assertiveness is based in substantial part on oil and natural gas and on Putin’s determination to exploit it.”