May 17, 2007

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, discusses how vulnerabilities of Nigeria’s oil infrastructure threaten the national interests of the United States.

Surveying a series of disruptive events which over the past two weeks have had the cumulative effect of cutting the daily oil production of America’s fifth largest supplier of petroleum by around one-third—a and driven the spot price for London Brent crude to $68.01 a barrel on the ICE as of close of business yesterday and average gasoline prices in the U.S. at a record $3.10 the per gallon (both figures higher than the ones available when the column was filed earlier this week)—Dr. Pham writes: “Taking together the current tight global market for hydrocarbons, the importance West African supplies in general and Nigerian supplies in particular to the U.S. economy, and the vulnerabilities highlighted…one cannot but be extremely uneasy surveying recent events in the West African country since the farcical presidential ‘election’ of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.”

The article goes on to warn that “while the proximate issues affecting the security Nigeria’s oil infrastructure—and, in fact, the stability and even viability of the Nigerian state itself—are generally local, this does not preclude outside terrorist networks exploiting those local grievances and militant groups…[in order to] damage the American economy, embarrass the U.S. and embolden other countries seeking to secure their own energy supplies, and force the U.S. to deploy more troops to the region to stabilize the situation.” Thus Dr. Pham concludes:

While there are limits to what the United States can or should do in Africa in general and Nigeria in particular, this does not mean that our attitude should be one of passivity. For the sake of our own national interests, including energy security and winning the fight against terrorism, and that of our ideals which are sorely tested by the corruption and underdevelopment of the continent as well as the victims of the increasing violence there, America needs to be more proactive in preventing transnational terrorist groups from taking advantage of the favorable conditions they are finding in places like the Niger Delta.

To read the full text of Dr. Pham’s article, “Vulnerability of Nigerian Oil Infrastructure Threatens U.S. Interests,” click here.