U.S. Faces Increased Energy Security Risk, Report Shows

The U.S. faces heightened threats to its energy security, according to a new report by the U.S Chamber of Commerce that measures risk in four areas—geopolitical, economic, reliability and environmental.

For 2010, the energy security risk index score was 98.0—the fourth highest since 1970 and a 6.5 point increase from the 2009 score of 91.5.

"These are the worst risks we've seen in recent history," said Karen Harbert, president of the Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy. "They approach what we saw following the Iranian hostage crisis. . . . Unless we take dramatic action to change the trajectory, America is headed toward an unprecedented level of sustained risk."

The index, updated annually, tracks changes in energy security risk beginning in 1970 and projects future risk through 2035. The 2011 edition of the index incorporates the most current energy data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and other federal agencies.

Of the 37 metrics weighed, 20 showed increased risk in 2010, 11 showed improvement, and six were unchanged. Eight of the top 10 metric with the largest score changes related to energy prices, price volatility and expenditures, the Chamber said, adding that the index projects a sustained period of high risk all the way through 2035. "These risks would be even higher if not for improvements made in energy efficiency, and the potential for shale gas to improve the security of natural gas supplies and lower energy costs," the Chamber added.

"We must maximize all of our domestic energy resources, make clean energy technologies more affordable, and eliminate regulatory barriers that are stalling urgently needed energy projects," Harbert said. "Only by taking these actions will we reduce our energy risks and make the nation and economy more secure."

The 2011 edition includes some adjustments to the index's formula based on feedback from last year's inaugural report. Adjustments also were made to some previous year's scores based on updated data from government sources. Most significantly, the 2009 score was adjusted from 83.7 to 91.5, largely because revised data that showed resurgence in high energy prices occurring more rapidly than originally estimated.

Highlights of the report included:

  • Geopolitical energy security risks rose to 97, 13.5 points above the 30-year average of 83.5. Most of the increase in risks seen in this sub-index since the early 2000s is linked to higher crude oil prices and volatility and greater import expenditures. The metrics measuring security of global fossil fuel reserves and production were essentially unchanged from 2009.
  • Economic energy security risks increased by 9.3 points in 2010 to 94.0, offsetting a large portion of the 17.1 point drop experienced in 2009. "This level of risk is well above the 30-year average of 73.7 for this sub-index and has been exceeded only in 1980, 1981, and 2008," the Chamber noted.
  • Reliability energy security risks increased 5.4 points to 111.0 in 2010, the highest recorded for this sub-index, with crude oil price volatility being responsible for much of the increase. The score for this sub-index has hit 100 points or more every year since 2005, and projections indicate that levels of risk above 95 will be maintained through 2035, even after assuming that crude oil energy price volatility will return to historical averages.

In one bright spot, the Chamber noted that the "potential of shale gas to improve the security of natural gas supplies and lower energy costs and expenditures is beginning to emerge. Recent estimates double the volume of recoverable shale gas resources assumed in past estimates, leading to greater domestic and global supplies and lower gas imports. Increasing shale gas supplies and further improvements in natural gas extraction technologies will further delink the prices of crude oil and natural gas."


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