German intelligence report sees US leading global energy contest
January 21, 2013 8 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A leaked geopolitical study authored by German intelligence sees the United States as the primary beneficiary of the world’s drastically changing energy balance. The report, which was produced by the German Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnach- richtendienst, or BND) was leaked to the Reuters news agency and accessed by Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It sides with other recent estimates, notably by the International Energy Agency, which suggest that the domestic oil production of the United States might exceed that of Russia and Saudi Arabia by the year 2020. The BND estimates that, through the technique popularly known as fracking (using pressurized fluid to cause horizontal fractures on underground rock layers), the US will be able to exploit oil and natural gas reserves on its territory that were previously considered inaccessible. This could transform the US from the world’s largest energy importer of energy to a net exporter of both oil and natural gas. According to the report, such a massive transformation of the global energy import-export balance could have “particularly dramatic consequences” in the realm of international relations. Most crucially, it could transform the existing balance of power between the US and China. Specifically, German intelligence analysts forecast that, as the US becomes increasingly self-sufficient in energy, it will limit its import of oil and natural gas to its neighboring countries, namely Canada and Mexico. This could potentially lead the US to gradually disengage from the Middle East, allowing Washington’s foreign policy “increased freedom of action” vis-à-vis energy-rich Arab nations and Israel. At the same time, more Middle Eastern oil will find its way to China, as the Far-Eastern country will emerge as the world’s largest importer of energy. As a result, says the BND, China will become increasingly dependent on the Arab Gulf states for its energy needs, thus replacing the current role of the US. However, the leaked report claims that, unlike Washington, China has neither the geopolitical clout nor the military resources that are necessary to protect its energy supply routes, as the US has been doing for over half a century. As a result, claims the study, China’s energy vulnerability will increase in the foreseeable future. German intelligence views Russia as another major loser in the changing global energy balance. The report suggests that, as an increasingly energy self-sufficient US limits its energy imports from Africa, these will gradually be diverted to Western Europe, thus lessening the continent’s reliance on Russian energy deposits. Russia could thus see its energy might —and as a result its geopolitical strength— decrease.
If I could be permitted a personal comment, as someone who teaches geopolitics at the university level: I have not read the original BND report, which has not been made available by Reuters. But based on the reporting by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, I see a major flaw in the logic of the study. Even if we were to accept that the US will indeed utilize fracking to the extent that it will be able decrease its reliance on imported energy, in no way does this entail that Washington will relax its control of Middle Eastern energy resources. After all, the primary reason for America’s current involvement in the Middle East is not so much its desire to import oil and natural gas (most of its energy imports come from elsewhere) but rather to have a say in where these exports end up —to have its hand on the spigot, as it were. This is precisely the reason why it is today so difficult for China to access Middle Eastern oil, even though it is offering to pay with hard American currency. There is little indication that an energy self-reliant Washington would wish to relax its grip on Middle Eastern energy deposits, thus allowing Beijing to access the resources it needs to grow its economy even faster than it does today.