On 22 August, the Republican campaign released its “The Romney Plan For A Stronger Middle Class: ENERGY INDEPENDENCE.”
The white paper’s “Pursue a North American Energy Partnership” section reports, “As Canadian Prime Minister Harper notes, fostering a greater North American energy partnership that replaces OPEC imports with stable supply from secure sources at discounted prices should be a “no brainer.” And Mexico is now displaying a renewed interest in collaborating with outside partners to increase development of its own plentiful resources.”
According to the federal Energy Information Administration “U.S. oil imports for September 2011,” Monthly data on the origins of crude oil imports in September 2011 has been released and it shows that three countries exported more than 1 million barrels per day to the United States. The top five exporting countries accounted for 69 percent of United States crude oil imports in September while the top ten sources accounted for approximately 88 percent of all U.S. crude oil imports. The top five sources of U.S. crude oil imports for September were Canada (2,324 thousand barrels per day), (OPEC member) Saudi Arabia (1,465 thousand barrels per day), Mexico (1,099 thousand barrels per day), (OPEC member) Venezuela (759 thousand barrels per day) and (OPEC member) Nigeria (529 thousand barrels per day). The rest of the top ten sources, in order, were Colombia (510 thousand barrels per day), (OPEC member) Iraq (403 thousand barrels per day), (OPEC member) Ecuador (299 thousand barrels per day), (OPEC member) Angola (283 thousand barrels per day) and Russia (275 thousand barrels per day). Total crude oil imports averaged 9,006 thousand barrels per day in September, which is a decrease of (16) thousand barrels per day from August 2011.”
As for OPEC members Saudi Arabia and Iraq, on 5 December 2008 Republican President George W. Bush addressed the Saban Forum in Washington DC. The White House subsequently issued a “Fact Sheet: Progress in the Middle East: Freedom, Prosperity, and Hope,” which noted, President Bush strengthened partnerships with each nation that joined in the fight against terror… Saudi Arabia became a determined partner in the fight against terror – killing or capturing hundreds of al Qaeda operatives.”(“Fact Sheet: Progress in the Middle East: Freedom, Prosperity, and Hope” @ http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/mideast/). On Iraq the President noted, “Iraq has gone from an enemy of the United States to an ally.”
All of which raises the question, if both OPEC Middle Eastern nations are now our “allies,” then how are their imports detrimental to our economy, and why would either Canada or Mexico supply us with oil at “discounted prices,” as Harper avers rather can charge the going market rate as they currently do?
Did You Know?
While “The Romney Agenda: North America: PURSUE A NORTH AMERICAN ENERGY PARTNERSHIP” section begins, “Approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” the line would in fact be surplus to existing capacity to shift Canadian oil to the U.S. A 2010 study prepared by Ensys Energy for the Department of Energy noted, “In every scenario studied, with or without Keystone XL, the excess cross-border pipeline capacity persists until after 2020. In scenarios where high pipeline capacity to the British Columbia coast – and thence Asia – is assumed built, the excess cross-border capacity into the U.S.A. is projected as continuing until 2025 or even 2030.”(“EnSys Keystone XL Assessment - Final Report Dec 23rd 2010,” Prepared by Ensys Energy for the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Policy & International Affairs @ http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/documents/organization/182421.pdf).
Mexico’s state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) production has decreased in recent years. As a result, in early 2011, Mexico held licensing rounds for performance-based contracts on oil blocks allowing participation to foreign oil companies for the first time since the 1938 nationalization of Mexico’s oil industry, but foreign firms will have no ownership rights over any oil they produce, with the government now allowing private companies to operate - but not own - seven oil fields scattered around the country.(U.S. Energy Information Administration, Country Analysis Briefs – Mexico” @ http://www.eia.gov/EMEU/cabs/Mexico/pdf.pdf.)
The Romney white paper also ignores a potential Western Hemisphere energy resource that could prove a larger “game changer” than Canada or Mexico. To tap it, all that would be required is a rethink of U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America. In 2010 OPEC reported that Venezuela has both the largest conventional oil reserves and the second-largest natural gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere and the organization's 81.33 percent of the globe's known oil reserves. According to OPEC, Venezuela has 24.8 percent, exceeding Saudi Arabia with 22.2 percent. Geological studies by the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) hydrocarbon conglomerate estimates that 300 billion barrels can be extracted from the Orinoco Oil Belt.("OPEC Share of World Crude Oil Reserves 2010" @ http://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/data_graphs/330.htm.)
Repairing our relations with Latin America, not only Venezuela, but OPEC member Ecuador and rising petro-state Brazil would further lessen U.S. dependence on Middle East energy imports. According to the Energy Information Administration, “The United States relied on net imports (imports minus exports) for about 45% of the petroleum (crude oil and petroleum products) that we consumed in 2011. Just over half of these imports came from the Western Hemisphere. Our dependence on foreign petroleum has declined since peaking in 2005.”(“EIA's latest weekly petroleum analysis” @ http://www.eia.gov/petroleum/.)
Finally, other means of reducing oil imports, such as increasing fuel efficiency and expanding renewable energy alternatives, are simply ignored in the white paper.
Dynamic advances are being made in the field of renewable energy. To give but one example, researchers at the Cleveland State University have developed a spiral wind turbine that generates more than 4.5 times as much electricity as conventional wind turbines.(Karen Farkas, “Cleveland State University wind turbines at Progressive Field are overachievers,” The Plain Dealer, 3 September 2012 @ http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2012/09/cleveland_state_university_win.html.)
In sum – the Romney white paper is a shallow, biased document heavily in favour of “Big Oil,” with the only new technology being promoted the highly controversial “hydraulic fracturing” technique, whose attendant side effects, from polluting aquifers to contributing to earthquakes, has led a number of states to either ban or place a moratorium on it. Even in such a pro-energy state as Texas, Cliff Frohlich, senior research scientist at the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin in a a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences observed that most earthquakes in the Barnett Shale region of North Texas occur within a few miles of one or more injection wells used to dispose of waste such as hydro-fracking fluids, observing, “You can’t prove that any one earthquake was caused by an injection well. But it’s obvious that wells are enhancing the probability that earthquakes will occur.”
Another striking omission in the white paper is the absence of any mention of the 2010 BP Macondo Deepwater Horizon oil rig blowout, which spilled more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 workers.
Despoiled coastlines, plundered federal lands, earthquakes, all for the profits of “Big Oil” in the name of energy “security” – is this the energy future that America really wants?
Part One can be found here
Part Two can be found here
By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com