This morning’s attack on a key Nigerian oil pipeline provides yet another graphic reminder as to why West Africa matters to the economic and energy security of the Euro-Atlantic world.
The insurgents of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) targeted the Bille-Krakrama pipeline which supplies Shell’s export terminal in Bonny in Nigeria. Timed to coincide with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to finalize major energy investment deals, the attackers followed their symbolic message with a formal one: “This is the fate that awaits the gas pipelines you plan to invest in (in) Nigeria if justice is not factored in the whole process.”
In response to this (as well as a power outage at major refineries in Texas), the price of crude oil for August deliveries in both the London and New York markets went up. The impact could have been greater; it was minimized because increases in unemployment in the United States and in other developed countries is holding down demand.
But today’s incident is not an isolated one. As Reuters noted, “Attacks have forced foreign oil companies, including Chevron and Italy’s Agip,to shut at least 133,000 barrels per day of oil production in the past month.”
More attacks are likely–leading to further supply interruptions. Continued instability may also delay the trans-Sahara gas project–designed to link Nigeria’s vast natural gas reserves with a European market hungry for new sources of supply.
What happens in Nigeria matters–it is not a far off region with little impact on the security and health of the Western world. U.S. consumers will be paying a little more at the gas pumps as a result of what happened today. But continuing to ignore the importance of Nigeria and some of the other states of West Africa for the future of the Atlantic community is a risk not worth running.
Nikolas K. Gvosdev, an Atlantic Council contributing editor, is on the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect those of the Navy or the U.S. government.