Remembering Ploesti
It underscores the importance of liberating America’s potential to produce transportation fuels.

B-24 Liberators hit the Nazi oil refineries at Ploesti, August 1, 1943. (USAF)


Robert Zubrin

Their navy all but gone, the Japanese were helpless against the American advance. Their garrisons isolated, one island fell after another. Then, on August 6, 1945, a single American bomber arrived over the city of Hiroshima. Although Japan had produced over 11,000 aircraft during 1945, the Enola Gay needed no fighter escort, for none of the Japanese planes had any fuel with which to fly. One bomb was dropped, and in an atomic flash the city was destroyed. After the attack on Nagasaki three days later, Japan surrendered.

This brings us to the present day.

America currently faces a foe whose power rests almost exclusively on its control over oil. It is the revenue from oil that is allowing Saudi Arabia to finance the global propagation of the Islamofascist movement as well as the purchase of ownership and influence in many Western corporations and governments, including our own. It is revenue from oil that is providing Iran with the wherewithal to develop the nuclear weapons that will give its Hezbollah terrorists — who are now expanding their operations to the Western Hemisphere — the capacity to slaughter millions of people. It is our dependence on the oil controlled by such enemy powers that is preventing us from undertaking effective action against them. It is their control over oil vital to us that allows the Islamists to laugh in the face of our complaints, as they teach terrorism, sharpen their nuclear knives, and call for our doom.

In World War II, we controlled the oil. In this war, the enemy does. This is an unacceptable situation, because it places our fate in the hands of people who want to kill us. In World War II, we had no compunction about destroying the Nazi fuel-making facilities at Ploesti and Leuna, or about systematically sinking the Japanese tanker fleet, because we didn’t need their oil. As we have seen, those attacks were incredibly effective in breaking the enemy’s power. On May 12, 1944, the day of the Leuna raid, the Third Reich ruled an empire comprising nearly all of continental Europe, with a collective population and industrial potential exceeding that of the United States. A year later, it did not exist. Once Japan’s tanker fleet was sunk, the collapse of its empire was almost as fast. Today we are confronted by an enemy without a shadow of the armaments of the Axis; all the Islamist countries have is oil. Were we to destroy that power, they would be left with nothing at all. But we can’t hit them where it would truly hurt, because our economy needs their oil to survive.

During World War II, the United States produced twice as much oil as the entire rest of the world put together. That is why our side won. Today we produce one-twelfth as much. That is our crucial, and potentially fatal, strategic weakness. It cannot be remedied by government programs to spy on American citizens. It can be remedied only by fully liberating America’s potential to produce liquid transportation fuels, both by increasing oil production and by opening the market to methanol, which can be readily made from our vast coal and natural-gas resources.

The crux of the matter comes down to this: Do we want to win, or lose? The issue at stake in energy security is not whether the price of gasoline will be $3 per gallon or $5 per gallon, or which fuel gives off more or less carbon dioxide emissions, or whether requirements that cars give consumers fuel choice conform to pure free-market principles. The issue is who will determine the future of humanity. Do we want to have the enemy’s fate in our hands, or do we want to leave ours in theirs?

Such is the lesson of Ploesti.

— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy and the author of Energy Victory. His latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was published in 2012 by Encounter Books.