U.S. Oil Dependence: Driving
U.S. Military Strategy
Friends Committee on National
Legislation, April 2004
U.S. economic prosperity and military
power were fueled over the last century by abundant, cheap domestic
oil. The Bush Administration believes that oil will continue to
be key to U.S. economic and military power in the years ahead.
Because U.S. domestic oil production continues to decline, the
Administration is seeking to rapidly secure access to oil supplies
around the world.
U.S. oil demand is huge and increasing.
Today, the U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world's population,
yet it consumes more than 25 percent of global oil production-about
20 million barrels per day (mbd). Oil is the dominant fuel in
the U.S. energy market, meeting almost 40 percent of total U.S.
energy needs. Most of this is consumed by the transportation sector.
If current U.S. oil demand trends continue, by 2025, the US. will
be consuming over 29 mbd. More larger and heavier cars and trucks-
with bigger engines, driven more miles each year- will account
for most of this growth.
U.S. domestic oil production began declining
about 1970. There have been no major new oil discoveries in the
U.S. for decades, and ;the cost of extracting oil from maturing
wells is going up. In 2002, the U.S. imported 54 percent of its
supply, and by 2025, the U.S. will need to import more than 70
percent at current demand projections.
Oil Scarcity Will Only Increase
The U.S. is not alone in its quest for
more oil. Industrial economies around the world remain highly
dependent on oil which, increasingly, they will need to import
from other countries.
China, with its rapidly growing economy,
1.3 billion people, and millions of new cars, has just passed
Japan to become the second largest consumer of oil after the U.S.
In 2003, China consumed more than five mbd, of which more than
35 percent was imported. By 2030, China will need to import 80
percent of the 12 mbd it is expected to need. India, with its
1 billion people and surging economy, also has a growing thirst
for oil, most of which will have to be imported.
All tolled, today, the world is consuming
a little over 80 mbd (30 billion barrels per year). By 2030, global
demand is expected to grow by 50 percent to 120 mbd (45 billion
barrels per year).
It is highly uncertain that enough new
oil will be discovered to meet this demand. There have been few
major discoveries in recent decades, and production from mature
oil fields is expected to peak soon.
An estimated two-thirds of the world's
remaining proven oil reserves are in the Persian Gulf region.
Eventually, this is the region upon which all oil-dependent countries
will have to rely. Other regions with oil reserves are as follows:
Central and South America, 9% of total global reserves; East Asia
and Oceania, 4%; Western Europe, 2%; North America, 5%; Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union, 6%; and Africa, 7%.
Militarization of US. Oil Dependence
The U.S. staked its claim to oil in the
politically volatile Persian Gulf region long ago through security
assurances with various regimes past and present. For decades,
each administration has pronounced its willingness to use military
force to secure U.S. access to oil in this region. However, the
Bush Administration has pushed the militarization of U.S. oil
policy to a new extreme. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, ousting
a hostile regime that controlled more than 112 billion barrels
of oil (the second largest proven reserves in the world) is the
most obvious example. Other U.S. military ties may be less well
To support its operations in Iraq and
its "war on terror," the U.S. has either provided military
aid and training, deployed troops, established bases, sold weapons,
or negotiated security agreements with governments throughout
the Persian Gulf region. The list of countries includes Afghanistan,
Bahrain, Djibouti, Israel, Kuwait, Kyrgystan, Oman, Pakistan,
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan.
The U.S. has fleets deployed permanently in the Mediterranean
and the Persian Gulf. It is seeking to establish forward operating
bases in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia and aircraft refueling
bases in Senegal and Uganda. It continues to operate large bases
in Turkey and is planning to move forces from Germany to new bases
in Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria to the east, where they will
be closer to anticipated zones of conflict in Central Asia and
the Persian Gulf.
To reduce reliance on Persian Gulf oil,
the Bush Administration has sought to strengthen relations with
other non-OPEC, oil-rich countries. In February, Defense Secretary
Rumsfeld visited Kazakhstan, promising security assistance for
Kazakhstan's oil pipelines and facilities on the Caspian Sea,
where an estimated 7-9 billion barrels of oil were recently discovered
(the largest oil discovery anywhere in 30 years). Azerbaijan,
Georgia, and Turkey just signed a U.S.-backed deal to build an
oil pipeline to bring that oil to ports on the Mediterranean.
The U.S. has military ties with each.
Securing Other Sources of Oil
In 2003, the U.S. increased its military
aid and provided more military trainers to Colombia to protect
an oil pipeline there. Colombia provides about 4 percent of U.S.
oil imports. U.S. oil imports from Africa are expected to increase
from 15 percent of total U.S. imports to 25 percent by 2005. Most
will come from Nigeria and Angola, from whom the U.S. already
imports almost 1 million barrels per day. Reportedly, the U.S.
is considering building a naval port and air base on the nearby
island nation of Sao Tome.
The Bush Administration's costly and provocative
efforts to secure access to foreign oil through military relationships
stands in stark contrast to its insignificant efforts to reduce
U.S. oil consumption. This misguided policy seems certain to lead
to future oil wars. The U.S. needs a more sensible energy policy-a
national mobilization to reduce U.S. oil dependence. Such a policy
would strengthen the U.S. economy, make the U.S. more secure,
and help prevent war.