Energy security is the ability to maintain a consistent supply of energy at a sustainable price. ‘Energy security’ is not ‘energy independence’ in the sense that all of the energy used in the United States comes from within its borders without international trade. This is neither obtainable nor desirable in a globalized world. Energy security does not depend exclusively on how much energy the United States produces domestically. In a world of globally traded commodities, it is no longer possible to be truly energy independent: even domestically produced energy sources are subject to fluctuations in global commodity markets.
Since the oil price crises of the 1970s, the risk of absolute supply shortages has been reduced significantly. The creation of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and its requirement that all member countries hold oil stocks capable of replacing 90 days’ worth of imports acts as a buffer against disruptions in oil supplies. The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve can substitute for, on average, 75 days’ worth of oil imports and privately held reserves account for the additional days of imports. Additionally, U.S. domestic production has soared since 2014. As such, even though the U.S. is still susceptible to price fluctuations, the U.S. is not as vulnerable to oil shortages.
There are various ways to strengthen energy security beyond increased domestic oil production, like diversifying our energy sources. If a source of energy supply is easily replaced by either a different fuel type or a different source, then a country is better insulated from supply shocks. U.S. foreign policy should be proactive in pursing its interests, not constrained by or responsive to energy disruptions.
Energy has many security implications. One, reliance on the production and transportation of fossil fuels creates national vulnerabilities. Two, burning fossil fuels contributes to climate change, which has national security implications. Three, the increasing drive towards alternate energy sources is changing the geopolitical landscape.
Energy, climate change, and security, as a consequence, create a powerful nexus that must be addressed and resolved together.