Michael Klare writes in The Nation about Katrina’s implications for our oil situation and our foreign policy (is there any difference?). A taste:
But it is not the short-term picture that we should worry about the most; it is the long-term situation. This is so because the Gulf was the only area of the United States that showed any promise of compensating for the decline of older onshore fields and thus of dampening, to some degree, the nation’s thirst for imported oil. … Spurred by the Bush Administration’s energy plan, which calls for massive investment in deep-water fields, the big oil firms have poured billions of dollars into new offshore drilling facilities in the Gulf. Before Katrina, these facilities were expected to supply more than 12 percent of America’s Lower 48 petroleum output by the end of 2005, and a much larger share in the years thereafter.
It is this promise of future oil that is most in question: Even if older, close-to-shore rigs can be brought back on line, there is considerable doubt about the viability of the billion-dollar deep-water rigs, most of which lie right along the path of recent hurricanes, including Ivan and Katrina. If these cannot be salvaged, there is no hope of slowing the rise in US dependence on imports, ANWR or no ANWR. This can mean one thing only: growing US reliance on oil from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Angola, Nigeria, Colombia, Venezuela and other conflict-torn producers in the developing world.
And it is this that should set the alarm bells ringing. If recent US behavior is any indication, the Bush Administration will respond to this predicament by increasing the involvement of American military forces in the protection of foreign oil potentates (like the Saudi royal family) and the defense of overseas oil installations.
Katrina has only heightened the tensions of our oil-soaked imperial project. Something’s got to give.
Update [2005-9-8 16:49:30 by Dave Roberts]: More thoughts on New Orleans’ geopolitical significance over on Stratfor, arguing that the city’s main import is not as a hub of oil production but as a port:
The United States historically has depended on the Mississippi and its tributaries for transport. Barges navigate the river. Ships go on the ocean. The barges must offload to the ships and vice versa. There must be a facility to empower this exchange. It is also the facility where goods are stored in transit. Without this port, the river can’t be used. Protecting that port has been, from the time of the Louisiana Purchase, a fundamental national security issue for the United States.