What do the following recent events have in common? The president
of the United States has prostrated himself for the second time in five
months before the king of Saudi Arabia, pleading for more oil. Despite
George Bush's inducements — an array of advanced, offensive arms; the
promise of nuclear technology with which the Saudis can expect (like
the North Koreans, Iranians, Pakistanis, etc.) to acquire the ultimate
weapons; and U.S. help securing Saudi Arabia's borders (something the
president has declined to do at home) — the American plea was spurned.
The contempt felt by the House of Saud was captured in its oil
minister's quip, "If you want more oil, buy it."
• The Senate
rejected, by a vote of 56-42, an initiative offered by Republicans that
called for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska
and some offshore waters now closed to exploration and exploitation of
their substantial oil reserves.
• In addition, that chamber's
appropriations committee refused by a similar party-line vote to lift
its moratorium on oil-shale production in Colorado. It seems that, if
we want more oil, we will have to buy it at ever increasing prices
from the Saudis and others even more unfriendly to this country's
national security and economic interests — like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez
or Russia's Vladimir Putin, perhaps even Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
One thing the Senate and House did agree upon, by overwhelmingly
bipartisan majorities, was suspending purchases of oil to fill the
remaining 3 percent of the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum
Reserves. This action will have negligible (if any) impact on energy
prices. But it will ensure that less oil will be available to us than
would otherwise have been the case in the event, for example, the next
terrorist attack on the Saudi oil infrastructure succeeds where others
have failed and seriously disrupts world supplies.
there is the newly formed coalition, ostensibly spearheaded by the
Grocery Manufacturers' Association, that has launched a
multimillion-dollar lobbying effort aimed at discouraging development
of one alternative to oil: domestically produced or imported ethanol.
Wrongly asserting that producing this transportation fuel from corn is
largely responsible for rising food prices and the attendant global
shortages, this instant grass-roots (read, "astroturf") coalition
appears to want America to remain essentially dependent on oil. Wonder
where the money for this campaign is coming from?
These actions — given soaring energy prices and the attendant
hemorrhage of U.S. petrodollars to, among others, people who wish us
ill — represent the sort of behavior in which only a nation utterly
unserious about energy security could indulge.
In truth, no
matter what we do, we will need oil for the foreseeable future. As a
result, we should do our utmost to find and exploit it in places either
under our control (for example, near where the Cubans and Chinese are
getting it off the coast of Florida) or at least friendly to us
(notably, Canada, Mexico and Brazil).
It is equally axiomatic
that, no matter what we do, we almost certainly will have less oil than
we need, certainly at prices we can afford. The question is: Are we
going to do something to meet the shortfall? Or are we simply going to
allow the economy and security of the United States to bleed out at the
hands of the Saudi-led OPEC cartel?
The Set America Free Coalition — an initiative launched several
years ago by unlikely array of national security-, environmental- and
energy-minded people and organizations from across the political
spectrum — is advancing practical, near-term alternatives to that
unappetizing and unacceptable prospect.
At the moment, the
Coalition is mounting its own campaign aimed at achieving in the
immediate future, a simple yet far-reaching goal: Ensuring each of the
17 million new cars added to America's highways each year is capable of
being powered by ethanol (from whatever source), methanol (ditto) or gasoline (or some combination thereof).
are already some 6 million of these Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) on
our roads today. Most of these are American-made (name another
technology in which Detroit has a competitive advantage?) It costs less
than $100 per car to equip new cars with this feature.
yourself, and your elected representatives and would-be presidents: As
each of these cars will last, on average, roughly 17 years, do we want
any more of them built the old way — namely able to use only
gasoline. Can we responsibly continue for another generation to lock
our transportation sector (the principal, and most profligate, consumer
of imported oil) into dependence on oil substantially imported from
Robert Zubrin — a leader of the Set
America Free Coalition and author of the terrific new book, "Energy
Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil" — notes
that, at today's oil prices, we are allowing the Saudis and their
friends to impose the equivalent of a 40 percent income tax of about
$3,300 on every man woman and child in this country. We cannot afford
to allow such lunacy to continue.
Sooner or later, Congress
will adopt an Open Fuel Standard requiring every new car sold in
America to be an FFV. The effect will be, in short order, to create an
immense and highly competitive market for alternative, "Freedom Fuels"
that we can make here or buy from friends. That will, in turn, will set
America free by beginning to end its cars' present addiction to oil.
Why wait any longer?