- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Canada is the world’s most energy-secure nation, and Indonesia is at the bottom of a new Energy Security Index compiled by Energy Security News and The Washington Times.

The study ranks the top oil-producing nations on their ability to export petroleum products safely to the rest of the world. It bases its assessment on each country’sproduction and refining levels, its level of internal political strife and its ability to transport oil to other nations, given potential - or real - impediments.

Canada, Norway and China are Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in energy security, according to the study, which gleans its data from the Energy Information Administration and the CIA World Fact Book. These nations’ oil-exporting businesses would suffer the least from disruption caused by government or internal strife, terrorist attack or a sudden inability to ship by sea, according to the study.

Iraq, Kazakhstan and Indonesia are Nos. 19, 20 and 21 as the least energy secure nations because of government instability, the substantial likelihood that a terrorist attack or conflict at sea could prevent them from exporting oil, and the amount of oil the countries refine per day.

The index also ranks how secure countries are in their oil-consumption habits. And on that list, the U.S. practices the riskiest oil-consumption behavior. The main reason: The U.S. imports most of its oil needs. Of the 21 million barrels of oil the United States uses per day, 14 million barrels are imported.

Consuming countries are ranked on how much oil, if any, they produce and refine per day, as well as where their imports come from and how much they import.

On the oil-production side, the United States ranks as the 11th-most secure among the top 21 oil-producing countries examined for the index. There is little chance that political or governmental discord could affect the U.S. exporting business, but it ranks in the middle among countries whose business might be disrupted by terrorist attacks. Oil security in the U.S. is clearly threatened by the fact that al Qaeda calls it a major target.

Transportation and geopolitical issues clearly correlate to how energy secure a nation is, said Sarah Ladislaw, an energy and national security specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Energy specialists have placed more emphasis lately on political and internal conflict, as well as the growing danger of piracy on the high seas, when they evaluate how safe oil exports might be.

Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest proven oil reserve - 267 billion barrels, or one-fifth of the world’s known supply - but it is only the eighth most energy-secure nation owing to the worry that terrorists might attack there. In addition, internal disruptions from occasionally active dissidents could also affect its ability to export oil.

Iran, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates also hold some of the world’s largest oil reserves, which range from 99 billion to 140 billion barrels of oil. But they are relatively insecure in terms of their ability to export oil to the rest of the world. In particular, about 40 percent of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz off the coast of Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

“If Iran chose to block the strait, for whatever reason, it would be catastrophic for the rest of the world,” said Charles Ebinger, the director of the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan think tank.

The dependence of the U.S. on foreign oil makes its consumption behavior risky. Mr. Ebinger said the U.S. could improve its energy-secure consumption ranking if it “made some tough decisions on what we want to do about producing domestic oil.”

(Corrected paragraph:) As of February, the U.S. imported the most oil from Canada, 2.5 million barrels a day, followed by 1.3 million barrels a day from Mexico and around 1 million barrels a day from both Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. With the exception of Mexico, all of these countries are more energy secure than the U.S., at least when viewed from the perspective of production.

During a recent congressional hearing on energy security, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the economic costs of a continued dependence on foreign oil leaves the U.S. vulnerable to price and supply shocks, but the true costs extend beyond what is paid at the pump. “Its revenues empower and sustain despots and dictators, and it obliges our military to defend our energy supply in volatile regions at great expense,” Mr. Kerry said.

Experts say such a dependence on foreign oil also puts the U.S. at risk of a crippling shortage if one of its major suppliers were to stop the shipment of oil.

Eric Burgeson, vice president of the lobbying firm BGR Group, said the biggest threat to the American oil supply is conflict with foreign governments. “It’s the reliance on other people’s oil - regimes that are either unstable or don’t have the country’s interests in mind,” Mr. Burgeson said.

(Corrected paragraph:) The exporting businesses of Iran, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Venezuela are at the greatest risk owing to government instability, according to the study. Of the four countries, the U.S. imports the most oil from Venezuela, 1 million barrels a day.

The study, which will be updated periodically, was compiled using methodology developed by energy specialists hired by Energy Security News, a division of BGR Group. The index was produced by Energy Security News and Washington Insight/Energy, an energy-policy publication of The Washington Times.

The 21 ranked producing countries, in order of most secure to least secure, are: 1. Canada 2. Norway 3. China 4. Russia 4. Venezuela 6. United Arab Emirates 7. Kuwait 8. Saudi Arabia 9. United Kingdom 10. Brazil 11. Algeria 11. Libya 11. United States 14. Mexico 15. Iran 16. Qatar 17. Nigeria 18. Angola 18. Iraq 20. Kazakhstan 21. Indonesia.

The 21 ranked consuming countries, in order of least secure to most secure, are: 1. United States 2. Netherlands 3. Singapore 4. France 5. Japan 6. South Korea 7. Spain 8. Belgium 9. Germany 10. Thailand 10. Italy 12. Turkey 13. India 14. China 15. Poland 16. Indonesia 16. Canada 18. United Kingdom 19. Australia 20. Taiwan 21. South Africa.

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