As crude prices react to increasing American tensions with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the key distinction between energy “independence” and energy “security” is an important time to be understood as the terms are in the US.
Following last week’s drone strike killing Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and several fellow countrymen as they tried to leave Iraq through Baghdad International Airport, some media commentators and government officials sought to allay public worries concerning possible oil supply disruptions by claiming that the USA now has energy “independencies” from relying on Middle Eastern oil tanks.
While there is no question that, largely thanks to the rapid increase in its domestic oil production during the last decade, the United States is benefiting from a much higher energy “defense,” it continues to import crude oil from the Middle East.
But “safety” is not equal to “independence,” which is why the US still has a strong interest in guaranteeing the free flow of oil through the Gulf of Persia and Hormuz Strait, the most trafficking oil tankers must travel through the Middle East. That is the main chocolate point in the north of Iran and Iraq; in the south, on the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Together with Saudi Arabia, all of those countries export large amounts of crude oil across the Hormuz Strait.
Ultimately, all these conditions combine to create a much more stable situation for world oil markets, as we have seen in moderate crudes rates in response to recent major conflict worsening in the Middle East. As has been the case in recent times.
The US does not rely on energy but is far more secure than it was, and higher energy security in the United States has led to the emergence of a safer world.