A team of journalism graduate students has published a detailed project on energy security, geopolitics and technology that debunks several national myths about oil.
The team of nine graduate students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism spent three months investigating “vulnerabilities in U.S. energy security policy,” including the large role of maritime security in ensuring steady streams of energy sources.
The project also explored the vulnerabilities of the Houston Ship Channel, the nation’s largest petroleum port.
“In their reporting, the students traveled far and wide,” according to a description on the project website. “Members of the team were embedded in military exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil choke point in the Persian Gulf; traveled by boat in the Subic Bay, Philippines, to report on tensions in the South China Sea; walked the storied hallways of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to look into cutting-edge fossil fuel research; climbed the hilly slopes of Quito, Ecuador, to investigate U.S. energy ties to Latin America; and documented local sentiments about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve near Baton Rouge, La.”
- With the resource boom of natural gas, the U.S. seems to be more energy secure than ever. But this can be deceptive, as America’s energy security is intertwined with that of other nations. As the U.S. becomes less reliant on foreign oil and the appetite for oil grows in China and elsewhere in the east, the balance of energy—and power—relations will shift dramatically.
- Despite seven successive U.S. presidential administrations calling for the country to be energy independent, none have succeeded. The complexity of energy geopolitics means the U.S. will remain invested in the global market even if the domestic energy boom continues. With oil a globally traded commodity, unrest and disruption anywhere in the world has the potential to impact prices and supply everywhere.
- The U.S. military has used force or the threat of force to protect its energy interests around the world, primarily in the Middle East, for more than five decades, safeguarding foreign oil sources and the sea lanes through which they pass.
- More than half of the world’s oil is transported by sea, making maritime security one the most crucial factors of energy security. Before getting to U.S. consumers and industry, oil leaves ports and harbors around the world and passes through global choke points. These narrow sea lanes are often highly vulnerable to disruption, including piracy, robbery, and mining by hostile nations.
- Protecting U.S. energy interests also means ensuring that important domestic oil and petroleum infrastructure remain safe. U.S. domestic sources, like the Port of Houston, remain vulnerable to threats such as natural disasters, cyber and terrorist attacks.
- The balance of power is shifting way from the U.S. and the West. The burgeoning economies of oil-hungry countries like China and India are driving oil imports to the East and changing the global political landscape in the postmillennial era.
- The U.S. builds close relationships with oil-rich countries to help secure our energy supply, sometimes turning a blind eye to corruption, human rights abuses and other problems in those countries that can also undermine global security. Many experts and security officials say that only if the U.S. becomes less dependent on foreign sources of oil can it firmly and effectively promote reforms in many of these oil-rich countries.