When drones struck Saudi Arabia’s oil processing facilities in September, 6% of global oil production went offline overnight.
The intent was clear: create a massive disruption in the global oil market, sending prices soaring and leaving the United States and its allies reeling.
What happened next — or rather what didn’t — was no less shocking.
As recently as a decade or so ago, knocking out 5.7 million barrels a day of Saudi crude production would indeed have roiled oil markets for months, if not years.
None of that happened. After the airstrike, global oil prices quickly rose — but by only 15%. And within a week, they were back to pre-strike levels. There were no devastating gas lines in the United States and no escalation of conflict in the Persian Gulf.
Most Americans did not even notice. Why not? What has changed to make an attack on this scale almost a non-event in the global energy market?
America’s energy boom.
In 2018, the United States became the world’s largest producer of crude oil for the first time since 1973. While the attack compromised Saudi oil, America’s oil and gas resources were unaffected and available to cushion the impact of the attack on the global market.
Domestic energy development may have just averted a war.
This massive geopolitical tilt in favor of the United States and its allies is thanks to fracking — a drilling technique that breaks up underground rock formations to free oil and gas.
Soon, Texas alone could produce more oil than Iraq or Iran — two countries whose oil assets have weighed heavily on our foreign policy deliberations for decades.
At the same time, we’re importing less and less energy. Since 2008, our net energy imports have dropped 95 percent.
But what about the next unforeseen attack, embargo, quota, sanction, or natural disaster? There are a few things we can do to make sure that we will be ready for even worse to come.
First, we can stop blocking the wealth of energy lying off our own coastline. Offshore territories hold roughly 90 billion barrels of oil and 328 trillion cubic feet of gas. Right now, government bureaucrats prohibit energy exploration in nearly 94 percent of those areas.
Second, both state and federal regulators can use a common-sense approach for oil and gas pipeline approvals. By funneling affordable energy to American consumers, pipelines make us less reliant on foreign sources.
Unfortunately, terrorists are more likely to redouble their destructive efforts than to abandon them. With policies that encourage more energy production at home, we can weather the storm and avoid crippling gas lines.
(Michael Barton is the founder of Hyatt Solutions and previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.)