Full oil tankers are floating aimlessly in the Persian Gulf largely because of the efforts of American oil and natural gas producers.
Energy industry leaders and politicians increasingly have been talking about energy independence in recent months — and years.
While the country is still far from free of its dependence on foreign oil, the efforts of the North American producers already are making a difference.
The country's oil imports peaked in 2005 at more than 10.1 million barrels per day. A nearly 50-year trend of steadily increasing imports was then suddenly and dramatically reversed as improved drilling techniques have allowed domestic producers to increase their oil output while the recession and conservation efforts have driven down demand.
As a result, the country's oil imports declined to 8.9 million barrels per day last year, down by more than 1.1 million barrels per day from the 2005 peak.
Production also has steadily increased over the past five years in Canada, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and other countries.
The combined global output increase has allowed the United States and European Union to enforce strict sanctions on Iran — the world's No. 5 oil producer — because of its nuclear efforts.
Beginning June 28, a new set of U.S. sanctions bars foreign banks that buy oil from Iran from doing business with the U.S. banking system.
European Union restrictions that began July 1 make it illegal for EU countries to import Iranian oil and refined products. The EU represented about 20 percent of Iran's exports last year. The EU plan also prevents European insurance companies from providing coverage for tankers carrying Iranian oil.
Even before the strictest sanctions took effect, Iranian exports dropped to about 3 million barrels per day in June, down from about 4.2 million per day one year ago.
More policy options
The Iranian sanctions would not have been possible just a few years ago.
In 2005, removing Iranian oil from the world market would have driven global prices to stratospheric levels, crippling economies as gasoline, plastics and other products would have become prohibitively expensive.
But today, most consumers barely notice.
The average price for a gallon of gasoline is 26 cents less expensive today than it was one year ago, according to AAA. The country's electricity rates are falling because of increased use of domestic natural gas. Chemical prices are falling because of lower-price natural gas and natural gas liquids.
In May, retired Marine Maj. Gen. Anthony Jackson told me the United States and its allies would look at conflict in the Middle East differently if the country were less dependent on foreign oil.
“It would allow us to take a more balanced look at our foreign policy,” Jackson said. “It would significantly reshape our foreign policy with respect to the Middle East.”
It appears that the general's predictions already are coming true.