If the United States is to counter the global influence of Russia, Iran, China and other hostile nations, we will need to find peaceful ways to advance our interests while undermining theirs. Thanks largely to hydraulic fracturing, we have a great tool to use for this purpose: natural gas. But we have a challenge getting it to market. We need to fix that.
Global natural gas consumption is projected to grow by 83 trillion cubic feet, or 69 percent, between 2012 and 2040, according to the Energy Information Administration. It is the world’s fastest-growing energy source, a title it will hold for decades.
U.S. advances in hydraulic fracturing have made the United States the world’s No. 1 producer of natural gas. Gas from shale reserves will make up 55 percent of U.S. natural gas production by 2040, according to the EIA. As world demand rises, so too will U.S. production, and that gives us tremendous opportunities to enhance our national security.
First, as we produce more of our own gas, we reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy. Second, as our production grows, so does our ability to advance our interests abroad through exports. This provides America unprecedented global flexibility, to engage internationally at a time and place of our choosing.
Natural gas already accounts for more than half of all energy consumption in the Middle East. That consumption is expected to grow by 2.5 percent per year through 2040. Three Middle Eastern countries — Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — hold 40 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves. Iran is projected to have the largest growth in natural gas production through 2040.
Although the United States might not become an exporter to these countries, it can pump its own gas into the world market, keeping prices down and reducing reliance on the Middle East’s dominant producers.
Russia is the No. 2 natural gas producer in the world, followed by Iran and Qatar. China is No. 6. All of these countries will try to increase their global market share both to make money and to spread their influence.
Russia has always been a significant geopolitical player but its influence has grown in part by becoming the dominant supplier of natural gas in Europe. Some European countries are so unsettled by this that they are open to paying more for U.S. gas just to avoid becoming dependent upon Russia.
By maximizing its natural gas production and getting this gas to market efficiently and reliably, theUnited States can accomplish two goals. It can reduce its dependence on foreign energy while increasing its influence in global affairs at the expense of Russia and China.
Even if we just consume more of our own gas, we can weaken Russia. Canada is our No 1. source of imported natural gas. If we buy less of it, Canada can sell more on the world market, undercutting Russia and China.
If we add to the global supply by increasing our exports, we further weaken Russia and China while strengthening our own alliances.
But none of this is possible if we don’t produce more natural gas and build the infrastructure we need to deliver it.
That’s why we have to support the construction of more pipelines such as the Rover Pipeline in theMidwest and the Rockies Express Pipeline. We cannot make use of this valuable strategic asset if we cannot get it to market.
Globally, natural gas is the big fuel of the next two decades. Its demand is increasing everywhere from Europe to India to Africa. The United States is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this opportunity. But we cannot do that if we don’t have the infrastructure we need to market the gas we produce.
We need more pipeline capacity, and we need it now. The longer we wait for it, the stronger Russia, Iran and China will become — at our expense.
Major Gen. James “Spider” Marks (U.S. Army, ret.), is president of The Marks Collaborative. He also serves as a strategic advisor to the Grow America’s Infrastructure Now Coalition.
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