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Ships in the Strait of Hormuz. Photo: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump has claimed that turmoil in the Strait of Hormuz matters less than in decades past, now that U.S. oil production continues to grow while imports fall — a view that does not reflect the global nature of today’s oil market.

The big picture: Middle East tensions have heightened following multiple attacks against oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, a 2-mile shipping channel exiting the Persian Gulf through which about one-fifth of the world’s oil passes each day. Even though the majority of those shipments are bound for Asia, the interconnectedness of the global oil market means demand surges or supply disruptions in any region affect oil prices worldwide.

Context: U.S. imports from the Gulf fell to 1.5 million barrels per day last year, down from a high of 2.7 million bpd in 2001. Celebrations of U.S. energy “independence” or “dominance” aside, the U.S. is still vulnerable to swings in the global oil market.

  • The risk isn’t directly to physical supply, but rather to price movements that affect business and consumers alike.
  • Past oil price spikes have coincided with numerous conflicts in the Middle East where physical supplies to the U.S. were not threatened. And current instability in Libya, which produces far less oil than the Gulf countries, could spark an increase in global prices.
  • While record levels of domestic production mean that U.S. producers would benefit more than in the past from high prices, the average American could still face sticker shock at the pump.

What to watch: The standoff between the U.S. and Iran escalated Wednesday when Iran shot down an American surveillance drone.

  • In response, prices of Brent crude, the global benchmark, climbed more than 5% Thursday morning. Further conflict could drive prices higher still.

The bottom line: The only way to be “independent” of the oil market is to not use oil. Until then, a supply disruption anywhere is a disruption to prices everywhere.

Richard Newell is president and CEO of Resources for the Future and a former administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Daniel Raimi is a senior research associate in RFF’s Energy and Climate Program.

Go deeper

2 mins ago - Health

Pfizer says COVID vaccine over 90% effective in kids

A health care worker preparing a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine dose in New York City on Oct. 21. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting children between the ages of 5 and 11 from symptomatic infections from the virus, according to a study released by the Food and Drug Administration Friday.

Why it matters: Pfizer is seeking an emergency use authorization to vaccinate children — one of the last groups of Americans still largely ineligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Changing the inflation conversation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Inflation looks like it’ll run hot for longer than plenty of smart people thought it would. The conversation over just how much more Americans will have to pay for their stuff has taken on a new intensity, as supply problems show few signs of fading.

Why it matters: The rate of price growth has remained consistently strong in recent months — a time that some thought would bring cooling prices after an initial reopening spike. What goes on with prices will influence the decisions made by Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Federal Reserve.

The biggest headline from Biden's town hall

President Biden greets attendees during a commercial break in Baltimore last night. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

What matters from President Biden's town hall with CNN's Anderson Cooper at Baltimore Center Stage on Thursday, via Axios night owl Hans Nichols:

The biggest headline: Biden is jettisoning the corporate tax increases that White House officials have insisted, for the past 10 months, are wildly popular across the country. He admitted he doesn't have the votes.