Securing America's Future Energy

Issue Brief: Airstrikes on Abqaiq Reveal Fragility of Global Oil Supply, Demonstrate Need for United States to Reduce Oil Dependence

Contact: Alex Adams | 202.461.2374 |

Washington, D.C.—The September 14 strikes that crippled Saudi Aramco’s Abqaiq oil processing facility should act as a reminder to policymakers that disruptions in supply anywhere in the world can still impact the United States, according to a new Issue Brief released by Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE).

The Issue Brief, Airstrikes on Abqaiq Reveal Fragility of Global Oil Supply, Demonstrate Need for United States to Reduce Oil Dependence, details how a further spark in this highly-charged environment holds the potential to set off a chain reaction with significant implications for security throughout the Middle East and for global oil markets.

The brief concludes that for the United States to counter the economic and national security consequences of such large-scale attacks on globally-significant oil infrastructure, policymakers must adopt demand-side solutions that reduce U.S. oil dependence. These include modernized fuel economy standards and greater fuel diversity, and vehicle fleet electrification in particular.

“These attacks show once and for all that as long as the United States remains dependent on oil to power its economy, our economic and national security will be impacted by events beyond our control in countries far beyond our borders. True energy security can only come if we decouple our economy from oil, and introduce greater fuel diversity into our transportation mix,” said SAFE President and CEO Robbie Diamond.

SAFE’S latest analysis found:

  • The strikes on Abqaiq may increase oil price volatility, but thus far prices have been tempered by a number of factors, including a well-supplied market and slower global economic growth. However, if escalating tensions further threaten oil supplies the impact would be magnified, negatively affecting the U.S. economy and testing American foreign and military policy.
  • The latest attacks should serve as a warning to policymakers. If this same incident occurred in a different economic environment, the result could prove catastrophic. The United States relies on oil to power 92 percent of its transportation system, a figure that has remained more or less unchanged over decades. A lack of diversity in our transportation fuel mix means consumers have nowhere to turn if oil prices spike. Policymakers should do more to support fuel diversity in the transportation sector, and adoption of electric vehicles in particular.
  • The U.S. military spends $81 billion every year to secure the global oil supply, due to America’s status as the world’s largest oil consumer. Our overwhelming dependence on oil is, in large part, why the United States has a substantial and permanent military footprint in the Gulf region.
  • The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) should be recognized as a strategic asset for the nation, not a mechanism to balance the federal budget. Events like the recent attacks are the types of situations for which the SPR was designed. The SPR remains the best short-term defense against supply disruptions and is a critical part of our national and economic security infrastructure.

The United States is the world’s largest oil consumer, accounting for one-fifth of daily global supply, 70 percent of which is used to power a transportation system that is 92 percent dependent on oil. SAFE advocates for a comprehensive solution to reduce our dependence on oil as an economic and national security priority. This includes supply-side policies to maximize domestic production, as well as long-term demand-side measures which include modernized fuel economy standards and greater fuel choice.


About Securing America’s Future Energy

Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) is an action-oriented, nonpartisan organization that aims to reduce America’s dependence on oil. Near-total dependence on petroleum in the transportation sector undermines the nation’s economic and national security and constrains U.S. foreign policy. To combat these threats, SAFE advocates for expanded domestic production of U.S. oil and gas resources, continued improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, and transportation sector innovations including electric vehicles, natural gas trucks, and autonomous vehicles. In 2006, SAFE joined with General P.X. Kelley (Ret.), 28th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President, and CEO of FedEx Corporation, to form the Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC), a group of business and former military leaders committed to reducing the United States’ dependence on oil. Today, the ESLC is co-chaired by Frederick W. Smith and General James T. Conway (Ret), 34th Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps.

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