Reliance on foreign crude worries American voters

For U.S. voters, the country’s oil policy continues to reign as one of their top ten priorities. It’s no surprise why politicians in their campaign speeches push for oil security and oil independence, but such discussions put a veil on its effect on current crude oil prices or those of the future.

These two terms however are not interchangeable. Oil security implies having steady access to reasonably priced oil from local or foreign sources, while oil independence is a country’s capability to locally produce its own oil.  Both, however, are aimed at meeting domestic oil demand.

Those who are pushing for oil independence contend that it’s high time that Americans curb their dependence on foreign crude.  EIA data reveals that the country is trudging along this path. Trends in oil purchases abroad showed a decline due to shifts in market preferences, a weakened economy, and surge in domestic oil output.

American voters, however, remain wary of over-dependence on foreign crude despite the seemingly rosy picture.

Tanya Andrien, Associate Director of the Energy Management and Innovation Center (EMIC) reported that, based on their 2011 survey, more than 80 percent of the total survey participants are anxious about U.S.’ dependence on foreign crude.

Some experts believe, however, that despite the growth in domestic oil output, the U.S. cannot completely sever its dependence on crude oil imports from outside, even politically unstable, nations.

Senior Economic Advisor of media relations with the American Petroleum Institute, Rayla Dougher, said that oil independence is not possible since the U.S. is constantly trading with other countries.

Ivan Eland, Center on Peace and Liberty Director, likewise claims that oil independence is a double-edged sword for consumers because, under this scenario, the country will turn its back on cheaper Saudi-produced oil supplies. The net effect is a higher crude oil price per barrel. Protectionism raises the price of a commodity, he added.

Eland also doesn’t believe that oil independence is a requisite to oil security. There will always be a reliable source of oil supply. Selling oil is a lucrative business and countries are therefore extremely motivated to go out and sell this commodity. With or without oil independence, the U.S. (and other countries as well) will be assured of oil security, although there will be instances when prices may be higher than usual.

Oddly enough, the road to oil security is to let it be. Let market forces do their job. Protecting U.S. oil supply through threats or conflict will only aggravate the situation and create a shortage of supply, thereby unnecessarily raising crude oil prices.