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Energy security: the chokepoint risk factor

January 14, 2013

5 of 7 critical oil transit corridors are in Islamic world

Looking for another reason to support domestic energy production rather than heavily relying on the fragile political and security situation in the Middle East?  Energy independence from Arab oil isn’t just about reducing the flow of petrodollars to jihad—it’s about ensuring our energy needs are met regardless of the latest turmoil, attack, or unrest in the Islamic world.

This map and background from the U.S. Energy Information Administration should be enough to persuade most citizens that depending on stability in these regions of the world is an untenable proposition:

Shipping lanes for oil

World oil chokepoints for maritime transit of oil are a critical part of global energy security. About half of the world’s oil production moves on maritime routes.

Chokepoints are narrow channels along widely used global sea routes, some so narrow that restrictions are placed on the size of the vessel that can navigate through them. They are a critical part of global energy security due to the high volume of oil traded through their narrow straits.

In 2011, total world oil production amounted to approximately 87 million barrels per day (bbl/d), and over one-half was moved by tankers on fixed maritime routes. By volume of oil transit, the Strait of Hormuz, leading out of the Persian Gulf, and the Strait of Malacca, linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans, are two of the world’s most strategic chokepoints.

The international energy market is dependent upon reliable transport. The blockage of a chokepoint, even temporarily, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs. In addition, chokepoints leave oil tankers vulnerable to theft from pirates, terrorist attacks, and political unrest in the form of wars or hostilities as well as shipping accidents that can lead to disastrous oil spills. The seven straits highlighted in this brief serve as major trade routes for global oil transportation, and disruptions to shipments would affect oil prices and add thousands of miles of transit in an alternative direction, if even available…

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