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Energy Priorities in North Africa and the Middle East

Energy Priorities in North Africa and the Middle East

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On June 11, 2014, the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a hearing assessing their energy priorities. The committee received testimony from Mr. Amos J. Hochstein, an expert on oil and gas and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy with the State Department. In this role, he oversees the intersection of energy and national security.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) chaired the hearing. She, two other Members, and Hochstein provided opening statements for the record. Their opening statements spoke on background facts and statistics regarding the status of energy from fossil fuels worldwide.

The Q&A section of the hearing was dominated by three issues: implications of the United States becoming energy independent, Israeli foreign policy in regards to newly found natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the status of Iran’s oil exportation in regards to the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) sanctions.

Hochstein revealed that America is close to becoming a net energy exporter. As of right now, the US is on its way to being a net energy exporter, and Hochstein speculated that we would be oil independent by 2035. Other estimates state the year to be 2020, but that the oil will be gone by 2030. He expressed that, although energy independence would bolster national security, America is intertwined in the global economy, and major geopolitical disruptions will drive up prices and harm economies worldwide regardless. Hochstein recommended encouraging cooperation, not conflict, in the Middle East and North Africa to promote national security and foster the global economy.

Large amounts of natural gas are present in the Eastern Mediterranean, along the coasts of Lebanon and Israel. Both Lebanon and Israel are in dispute over their maritime borders. Committee members sought insight on these two topics. Hochstein stated that the US government views Lebanon’s newfound possession of substantial natural gas as positive, but that it would be difficult to access their market due to the ongoing dispute. Israel recently discovered natural gas decreases its energy dependences on other sources in the area, like Egypt. This is important as a major pipeline that runs from Egypt to Israel has been attacked numerous times since 2011.

The majority of the hearing was used to discuss the JPOA sanctions on Iran limiting its export of petroleum products. Committee members expressed concerns that Iran is surpassing the imposed limits. The JPOA sanctions state that Iran exports would remain at the same level as when the sanctions took effect—approximately between 1 and 1.1 million barrels per day. Hochstein specified that the barrel numbers could seem inflated as Iran’s export statistics group crude oil and condensates together, typical in the petroleum industry. Condensates are liquid extractions from natural gas; the JPOA sanctions only apply to crude oil, not condensates.

There is expected to be a classified forum wherein the committee members and Hochstein could further the hearing. There were a handful of questions that he would not answer in a public forum.

For information on ASP’s energy security; see:

  1. America’s Energy Choices – 2014
  2. Five Choices on Energy that We Need to Make
  3. The U.S. Tight Oil Boom: Geopolitical Winner or Long-Term Distraction?
  4. What is Energy Independence?

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