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How the U.S. almost created an oil crisis.

by Paul C / April 2, 2009 10:32 AM PDT

The slow way to create one; wait for the oil to run out.

The fast one; block the Straits of Hormuz, the only exit point from the Persian Gulf for supertankers. Since those straits are narrow and shallow, that wouldn't take much - especially if the obstacle was a nuclear powered U.S. Navy submarine:

For many years, we in the West have worried about Iran closing the Straits of Hormuz to oil tanker traffic. An abrupt closure would instantly spike oil prices well into three-digits, and immediately change the energy equation of the world. Indeed, many geostrategic scholars believe that closing the Straits of Hormuz would be tantamount to an act of war.

But what if it was the US that closed the Straits of Hormuz? What would the world think if the US directly precipitated the end of ship traffic in the Straits, or at least severe restrictions on transit and passage?

Closing Hormuz? We Almost Found Out?

Well, we almost found out last Friday, March 20. That was when two US Navy ships collided during an otherwise routine transit through the Straits of Hormuz. And one of the vessels was a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS
Hartford (SSN-768). Hartford is a Los Angeles - Class attack submarine...

Early in the morning of March 20, submarine
Hartford was transiting into the Persian Gulf through the Hormuz Straits. Hartford[i/ was accompanying an amphibious surface ship, the USS New Orleans (LPD-18) which was making her first extended deployment. Hartford was ?submerged but near the surface? at the time of the collision, according to Navy officials.

For reasons not yet known, the two ships collided. According to one report, submarine
Hartford rolled 85-degrees to starboard. The impact and rolling caused injuries to 15 Sailors onboard. The bow planes and sail of the submerged Hartford ripped into the hull of New Orleans.

According to a Navy statement, the collision punched a 16-by-18 foot hole in the fuel tanks of
New Orleans.
Two interior ballast tanks were also damaged, the statement said. USS
New Orleans lost about 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel, which rapidly dissipated in the ocean and could not be tracked after a few days. There were no injuries to New Orleans' crew of 360 or the embarked unit of 700 US Marines.

Nuclear-powered submarine
Hartford was severely damaged. Indeed, the submarine?s sail was torn from its mountings to the vessel?s pressure hull. (See photos below, courtesy of US 5th Fleet.) The submarine?s sail is clearly bent by several degrees to starboard. It?s not part of the builder?s specs, that?s for sure. Apparently, the submarine?s communication masts and periscope are warped and inoperable. The watertight integrity of the pressure hull is suspect. After the collision, Hartford transited on the surface to Bahrain, where the vessel tied up to a military pier.

I guarantee you that had the Hartford gone down, the inevitable $15/gallon gas would have been here by Memorial Day.

The author, BTW, is a former Navy officer.

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