Since the 1973 oil embargo imposed on United States by Arab oil producing nations, United States has not relented in pursuit of strategies to make America energy secured and sufficient. The energy security was paramount to United States because of its dependency on foreign oil especially in the troubled Middle East. American modern industrial complex is run on oil and she cannot afford to be vulnerable to the instability in Middle East, its primary source of oil. Finally, the formulated strategy is bearing fruit in a big way and United States has apparently reached the promised land of energy sufficiency and it will soon export crude oil by 2014.
Earlier, United States strategic interest was extended to Nigeria where the supply of sweet ebony crude oil was more reliable. Nigeria was a good alternative to Middle East where political insecurity and instability are threat to oil shipment to United States. The energy policy makers and business community in America does not want to rely solely on the Middle East oil. Therefore looking beyond Middle East was a smart strategic move, not that they abandon oil supply from that part of the world but they diversify their sources of oil supply to include Mexico, Canada, Nigeria, Venezuela and many other places in southern hemisphere.
But even with the myriad sources of oil supply to America, it has not abandon oil drilling and exploration within continental America. It is a goal and principal task among oil explorers in United States to make a quantifiable difference in supply of energy for internal consumption. With innovative technology, strategic planning and implementation, they are beginning to win the battle. The technology and cost that hampered local exploration of oil deposits have been improved and scientifically uplifted. The cost of production is managed brilliantly with insight and innovations that are now bearing fruits.
With intensive research and development, United States has struck gold with discovery of fracking process for recovery of ‘lost’ oil embedded on rock formations in deep underground. Since 1951 US discovered a large oil deposit at Bakken formation which is at the landscape which encompassed Montana, North Dakota, and Saskatchewan. But the rock formation was difficult to extract oil from but with fracking procedure US will soon become an oil exporting nation that will rival Saudi Arabia and OPEC. The 1920 Mineral Leasing Act which restricted oil export in United States may be abrogated.
Chris Swann, Reuters Breaking views columnist, writing on this subject put it this way:
“America’s energy boom is spurring a clash between the realms of politics and economics. Meaningful exports of oil have been banned for almost a century. But with output surging and crude fetching a 20 percent discount at home, producers want to ship it overseas. BP, Royal Dutch Shell and four others have applied for limited licenses to do just that. Unblocking trade could benefit everyone.
The 1920 Mineral Leasing Act allows producers to sell only tiny amounts of black gold abroad. Even shipments to Canada require a special license – BP has just secured one. At present America exports just 47,000 barrels a day, against imports of over 8 million barrels. Yet production has shot up 32 percent since 2008.
The output surge has been gradually helping to make America more energy self-sufficient. The only drawback is that there’s not as much demand at home for the light sweet crude generated by new fields – and many U.S. refineries are configured to process heavy sour crude. On top of that, the pipeline network for transporting domestic crude is inadequate.”
At the Bakken formation there is a reliable crude oil deposit up to 4.3 billion barrels and together with other oil spots in America, there will be no need for America to import sweet light crude from Nigeria because the land mass at Bakken Formation contain essentially sweet light crude.
At the present United States imports 15 percent of its oil from Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa, and it was projected to import about 25 percent of its oil consumption from Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa by 2015. But with discovery of fracking process and with the large deposit of crude oil at Bakken, Nigeria has to look for another market for its oil export and consumption.
Energy security and sufficiency has been United States priority and it can now join the family of oil exporting nations. United States did a great job in energy conservation, together with Natural Liquefied Gas, and other energy alternatives in a mix; it propelled US to achieve energy sufficiency.
Nosedive of price and oil glut
Nigeria policy makers and National Assembly were squabbling over $75 pegging of oil benchmark for 2013 budget but they come short of realistic strategic econometric forecasting of oil price by 2014. In the next couple of years the price of oil will come down but no expert can say for sure how much it will be but there are chances that price of oil will dramatically nosedived with United States exporting oil and competing with OPEC on the world stage.
Another leverage United States will enjoy over Nigeria and OPEC nations is its ability to refine its own crude oil. Although, many of the oil refineries in United States were technologized to process high sulfur oil; but US will overcome the shortcomings by building refineries geared for sweet light crude refining, while simultaneously getting a helping hand from nearby Canada.
Nigeria will feel the heat and may lose more than other OPEC members because she failed to diversify her economy and leverage oil generated revenue for development. The Nigeria’s economy still depended on oil for 95 percent of its foreign exchange; the economy is not diversified but rather ridden with ‘chop chop’ corruption. The economy lacks the incentive that it needs to attract a large and enduring capital that will make a difference in the life of an average Nigerian. The core social and physical infrastructures that enable the wealth creation to be sustainable are absent because Nigeria failed to have a clear cut priority. Buying private jets, drinking expensive wines and siphoning money abroad will not cut it. Nigeria cannot boast of uninterrupted supply of water and electricity for a full day. That is incredible!
Nigeria does not have seasoned leaders and patriots to turn the country around. As the President Jonathan said, one person cannot do it alone but at same time Nigerians must not be waiting to be invited to build their own nation.
Nigeria‘s future Market
The appropriate thing to do is to look for market in Far East especially in China, Japan and India. These nations are already doing business in Nigeria; China for one is not a stranger in Nigeria, where she is playing an important role in oil exploration. This can also be said of India; the truth is that things are going to change because United States will not abandon those markets for Nigeria and OPEC nations. With all the internal insecurity bubbling in Nigeria: the kidnappings, killings, corruption, unreliability; China and India may even prefer to buy oil from United States that is more reliable, without rancor and instability.
Therefore Nigeria must stop and look at internal market for its energy consumption especially within Nigeria and West Africa. But, first and foremost, building more refineries are quite essential to cease refining oil abroad. Nigeria has the internal market for its energy consumption. Building electricity plants that are run with its own energy which are in ample supply is the way forward. The good thing coming out of this, is that the time has come for Nigeria to look inward and appease the energy demand in the economy rather than sending those resources off shore.
Mr. Emeka Chiakwelu is the principal Policy Strategist at Afripol. Africa Political & Economic Strategic Center (AFRIPOL) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, sustainable green environment, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa. www.afripol.org firstname.lastname@example.org