America’s Oil Boom Won’t Make It Energy-Independent From Middle East Madness

If the U.S. does strike Syria, the price of oil — already at $115 and rising in the Brent index, largely because of political disruptions in Libya, a major producer — is likely to spike. It’s not that Syria is a major oil producer — even before the war its exports were modest by Middle East standards, and now the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad can manage just 50,000 barrels a day, barely 5% of what tiny Oman can pump. But even limited strikes would raise fears that the civil conflict in Syria could spread, inviting retaliatory action against Israel, moves by Assad’s ally Iran and disruptive protests in Middle Eastern countries that actually do produce a lot of oil. Fear alone would likely be enough to raise the price of oil above $120 a barrel, and if any of those scenarios actually came true, we might see crude beat the record $147 per barrel reached in 2008. Should that come to pass, the International Energy Agency would likely coordinate releases from national petroleum reserves to increase global supply and bring down prices somewhat, just as it did during the Libyan civil conflict in 2011. Nonetheless, U.S. drivers, currently paying an average of $3.61 a gallon, would be hit hard at the pump But wait a minute. The U.S. is in the midst of a boom in domestic oil production, thanks largely to new unconventional reserves in North Dakota and Texas, even as oil demand has fallen thanks to improving energy efficiency (and a still sluggish economy). The U.S. now imports 36% of the oil it uses, down from 60% in 2006. With U.S. oil production projected to increase by 28% between 2011 and 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration, and tougher CAFE fuel standards forcing more-efficient cars and trucks, oil imports will likely keep dropping in the years to come. The U.S. — or at least larger North America — could finally achieve something that politicians on both sides of the aisle have been chasing for decades: energy independence. Finally