Set aside the fantasy of “energy independence.” World energy markets are heavily integrated, and it probably is never going to be the case that what happens in Saudi Arabia or Russia or Iran has no effect on U.S., British, or European prices and supplies. And even if that happy state comes to be someday, it is not the case now and will not be the case in the near future: The spare capacity that allows the world petroleum markets to function smoothly provides, at the moment, a margin that is insufficient to cover the production that could realistically be taken offline by a broader Iranian attack on Saudi energy infrastructure. U.S. refineries remain disproportionately optimized for the relatively high-sulfur oil we’ve long imported rather than for the “light sweet” crude we produce. Our own energy infrastructure, and that of the rest of the world, remains far too vulnerable to terrorism and conventional military attack. There is much work to be done.
It all begins with supply. The more supply there is, the more incentive to build out and improve the infrastructure, the more liquid the market, the less fragile the system. There is no substitute for abundance — and a wide choice of providers. Every barrel of oil and cubic foot of natural gas produced outside of the Middle East and Russia makes the United States and its allies better off.
Beady-eyed realpolitik used to mean deferring to the world’s big oil producers when it came to our relations in the Middle East. Now it means being the world’s big oil producer and — once they decide they’ve grown tired of unnecessarily taking on risk while giving up wealth, income, and jobs — helping our British and European allies become bigger players, too.