German intelligence report sees US leading global energy contest

The Tengiz oil refinery in KazakhstanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
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.

8 Responses to German intelligence report sees US leading global energy contest

  1. Kidd says:

    stationed at Ft. Benning long ago, a directive came down from the Pentagon ,asking students at the Infantry School to come up with battle strategies for a war to be fought in the desert in 30 years time. the Pentagon had determined there was a limited amount of oil and the war would be fought over oil. economies such as they are, can’t survive without oil.

  2. Mari Arinna Mandoria says:

    Fracking has been shown to cause unacceptable damage to the land . if the US pushes ahead with more fracking they will ultimately suffer the consequences. It is foolish,stupid and unintelligent to keep pursuing the profits of fossil fuels or push for more nuclear power plants as first priority energy sources when there are perfectly safe alternatives that will not harm the environment or indeed any living breathing being. Hemp for one which can be converted into fuel and has many other uses as well as all the other alternative energies which are available.

  3. Ryan says:

    Awesome post! I wrote a 35 page paper on this sort of thing as an undergrad. Really fascinating stuff!

  4. mopsie says:

    so, what your personal comment is saying is that the USA tries to maintain its position of global dominance by stifling development and strangling the competition rather than by outperforming them. What a perfect example of a country that is not fit to lead.

  5. Pete says:

    I agree with Joseph Fitsanakis’ comment that the US is likely to maintain its hold on Middle East oil to limit oil to China. An additional reason is that the US limiting oil production from countries like Iraq and Iran will provide more oil for US use once North American sources of oil dry up.

    Another reason for continued US military power in the Middle East is the essential place of the US military-industrial complex in the US economy and in US politics. Any peace dividend from opportunities to withdraw from Middle East oil lands or SLOCs must be fought against. The military-industrial complex justified its existence for just over three decades in order to contain Communism. Now the War on Terror, centered in the Middle East, is the current multi-decade plauiable reason. This applies not only to regular US military and Special Forces but to CIA paramilitary resources.

  6. Agent 47 says:

    You really just brought up HEMP as an energy source?

    I mean, wow.

  7. AlbertE. says:

    And according to this BND report China will be the big loser. NOT so if the Chinese establish and maintain the String of Pearls strategy in the Indian ocean and take measures to consoidate hegemony over the South China Sea. But then there is possibility of conflict with the U.S. when allies in the area issue the call for assistance as the Philippines has done. We have only just begun. USS Olympia and destroyer Gridley have just visited the PI on good will visits. Gridley was the Captain of the USS Olympia, Manila Bay, 1898!!

  8. intelNews says:

    @Mopsie: I take your point. I don’t think that my personal comment reveals some “great secret” about American energy policy. These are geopolitical games whose nature has not changed for several millenniums. I also think that “a country fit [or not fit] to lead” is a bit of a loaded term. Countries are human constructs and therefore have a propensity to mess up. In this respect, I don’t see a significant difference between America, Germany, Russia, or any other country. Ultimately, if America is not fit to lead, could you point to a country that is? Thanks for your comment. [JF]

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