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Libya mess shows need for energy independence

September 5, 2013

The apparent crumbling of the Libyan state and related, ongoing spike in global oil prices illustrate the importance of ending Western dependence on Middle Eastern and North African oil.  From The Telegraph:

“We are currently witnessing the collapse of state in Libya, and the country is getting closer to local wars for oil revenues,” said the Swiss-based group Petromatrix.

The country’s oil ministry said production has slumped to an average of 300,000 barrels per day (b/d) in August, down by more than four-fifths from its peak after the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime two years ago.

“Militia groups are behaving like terrorists, using control over oil as political leverage to extract concessions,” said Dr Elizabeth Stephens, head of political risk at insurers Jardine Lloyd Thompson. Port closures and strikes have compounded the damage but the deeper story is the disintegration of political authority.

Libya is the most extreme example of political mayhem around the world disrupting output and causing a chronic shortfall in oil supply. Production has slumped in Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Yemen and Syria itself, each for different reasons.

This has cut daily global supply by 1.1m over the past year to 92m, explaining why Brent crude prices have remained stubbornly high despite the slump in Europe and China’s slowdown. To compound the problem, Libya’s oil is some of the highest quality produced in the Middle East and the kind preferred by European refiners. Jitters over Syria have already pushed Brent to $115, near levels that typically erode confidence and inflict serious economic damage…

Is it logical to remain reliant on a region fraught with despotism, Islamist rebellions, intra-Islamic sectarianism, corruption, and utter disrespect for the rights of religious minorities?

No.  The good news is that the U.S., Canada, and Europe do not have to entangle themselves in the Middle East if they are willing to bring the environmentally reactionary fringe under heel.  There is plenty of oil and gas beneath our very feet if we are willing to extract it.  And we will do so in a more environmentally responsible fashion than Arab oilmen anyway.

As part of the president’s proposal to punish Assad for gassing children to death, Obama should simultaneously announce his support for the Keystone XL pipeline, increased offshore and federal land drilling, and ease permit issuance for hydraulic fracturing.  What good is a solitary, short-term military campaign without a longer term strategy for peace?

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