US looks to Africa for 'secure oil'

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Mon Sep 16 11:32:39 MDT 2002

 US looks to Africa for 'secure oil'

By Keith Somerville
BBC News Online,
Friday, 13 September, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK

 When President George W Bush held meetings with the Presidents of 11
African states on Friday, oil is likely to have been coupled with Iraq
at the top of his agenda.

 Most of the states involved in the meeting are either current oil
producers or are involved in the expansion of oil exploration in the

 The meetings come as the United States seeks alternative oil supplies
from non-Middle Eastern sources, now that tension is growing there over
US policy towards Iraq.

 The US has become increasingly dependent on foreign oil over the last
decade, importing around two-thirds of its requirements.

 With much of the oil originating in the Gulf region or the Middle East,
America fears its supplies would be susceptible to a negative Arab
reaction to any US military action against Iraq.

 In recent years, the country has imported more and more oil from
sub-Saharan Africa - notably Nigeria and Angola.

 President Bush saw the African leaders, most of them from West and
Central Africa, in two sessions and discussed a wide range of issues
from corruption and investment to Aids and conflict resolution. But oil
will never have been far from his mind.

 Non-Opec sources

 The US imports more than 8.5 billion barrels of oil every day.

 Nearly two-thirds of the imports come from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela,
Mexico and Canada, with Nigeria, Kuwait, Algeria, Norway and Britain
supplying significant quantities.

 African oil and the US

US imports two thirds of its oil needs. Most imported oil comes from
Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Mexico and Canada. Sub-Saharan Africa is
rapidly increasing its oil output Africa could supply 25% of US oil by

 War with Iraq could endanger supplies from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in
the Gulf region and also from Algeria.

 The Economist Intelligence Unit has warned that in the event of an
attack on Iraq it is likely that Middle Eastern producers would "team up
to cut oil production" thereby reducing supplies globally and pushing up

 Members of the oil producers organisation Opec could also be affected -
disrupting Saudi, Algerian, Venezuelan and Nigerian supplies.

 So the US is looking to other parts of the world for sources of supply.

 Most of Africa's oil producers are not Opec members - notably Angola,
Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon.

 Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the fastest growing oil sectors in the

 Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo Brazzaville are all
expanding their output and Chad, Cameroon and Sudan are in the race to
catch up.

 A US Government think-tank, the National Intelligence Council, has
estimated that in just over a decade, West African oil exports to the US
will constitute about 25% of US oil import requirements from the current
level of 16%.

 Sights on Africa

 Angola is at the centre of the oil boom. Its output has increased from
722,000 barrels a day in 2001 to 930,000 this year and by 2020 it is
expected to reach 3,28 million barrels a day.

 Nigeria's out will double to 4.4 million barrels a day by 2020.

 And minor oil producers now - like Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Sudan -
could more than treble their output.

 Angolan oil is being pumped out in growing volumes

 On Wednesday, it was confirmed that the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline
project would go ahead with World Bank support. US companies Exxon and
Chevron are major partners in the scheme to pump Chadian oil to
Cameroonian ports on the Atlantic.

 The leaders of Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon and Gabon were among
those seeing President Bush on Friday.

 Following the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development, US
Secretary of State Colin Powell stopped in both Angola and Gabon, where
oil was at the top of the agenda.

 Oil security

 But the US is not just interested in finding oil suppliers. It wants to
ensure that those supplies are secure - not just from political
decisions but also from the threat of military attack.

 Washington has been discussing with Sao Tome e Principe, the island
state off the west coast of Africa, the possibility of establishing a
naval base there.

 President de Menezes of Sao Tome is to meet George Bush on Friday.

 Ahead of talks with Mr Bush, President Fradique de Menezes of Sao Tome
confirmed they would be discussing strengthening security in West

 President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville also said US
companies were delighted with their growing involvement in the West
African oil industry. However, he declined to say whether the US saw
Africa's Gulf of Guinea as an alternative to the Persian Gulf.

 But some American politicians have been more forthcoming.

 Ed Royce, the Republican who chairs the House of Representatives Africa
Subcommittee, is enthusiastic about African oil.

 "West African oil doesn't have the strategic bottlenecks that other
nations have. We generally have good political relations with African
oil producers.

 "And if it lessens our dependence on a particular section of the world,
that's good," Mr Royce said.

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