The imperishability of the energy crisis is one of the howling mysteries of American political science. It has been nearly 40 years since President Nixon founded Project Independence, an effort to regain energy self-sufficiency and stop unreliable oil-exporting states from inconveniencing U.S. national-security policy. At that time, the United States imported 20 percent of its oil, and the price was between $10 and $20 per barrel. The great oil-exporting states of Iran and Venezuela were in the friendly hands of the shah of Iran and democratic, reasonably well-disposed leaders in Caracas.
Most relatively informed people are aware of the general pattern of what has happened since. There has been a double cat-and-mouse game as America has made purposeful, but not very consequential, noises about conservation and alternative energy sources, and OPEC and other oil exporters have increased oil production but failed to raise supply adequately to meet demand.
The simultaneous game has been the inflation of the Western currencies in a treadmill to oblivion that in fact exceeds published figures, and where the desirability of disguising the real rate of inflation dovetailed conveniently with the ambitions of the political class not to appear to be cavalier about debasing the value of money. This process has been roughly accompanied by the syncopated rise in the price of oil, from $3 to $80 in 40 years — 2,600 percent, or 65 percent annually, leaving out the sharpest price fluctuations.
In the nearly 40 years since Mr. Nixon’s warnings about oil’s threat to national independence, and the more than 30 years since President Carter donned his cardigan beside the roaring White House fireplace and told the nation to lower its thermostats, U.S. oil consumption has almost doubled, the dollar has been substantively devalued, the price of a barrel of oil has risen to $80 with spikes to $125, and the U.S. now imports 60 percent of its oil, a billion dollars a day piled on to its bone-cracking current-account deficit.
Some of the largest oil suppliers, such as Saudi Arabia, while ostensible allies, have also played footsie with terrorists who have destabilized other American allies and inflicted savage violence on the continental U.S., for the first time since a British and Canadian shore party chased President Madison out of Washington with a painting of the capital’s namesake under his arm, and burned down the White House.
As America has wallowed in oil dependency, it has effectively been financing both sides in the battle with militant Islam. Saudi Arabia is a joint venture between the House of Saud and the extremist Wahhabi establishment. It has 2 percent of the world’s Muslims, but controls 90 percent of the world’s Islamic institutions, through which it propagates violent intolerance of the West, secularism, Jewry, homosexuality, and even other Muslim groups, such as Shiites, the Iranian and Iraqi majority.
Oil imports have been one of the colossal policy failures of U.S. history, aggravated by the steroid-bloated canard that the problem can be solved by erecting windmills and clapping solar panels like limpets to almost everything. It is surprising, given the fecundity of the conspiratorial mind, that the whole global-warming alarm, the scientific evidence for which has been seriously undermined, has not been labeled a ruse and a snare of OPEC and the treasonable oil companies to draw America farther into the Venus fly trap of fantasy remedies to a huge but uncomplicated problem of supply and demand.
No easily imaginable tactical blunder has gone unimplemented. As the American automobile industry floundered toward bankruptcy, the one popular area that was tariff-protected was relatively high-gasoline-consumption SUVs and small trucks. As the financial storm clouds gathered over Detroit (well before that city’s skies were made even murkier by the smoking crotch of the Nigerian petro-panties bomber), General Motors drove into the future and over the cliff in the gas-guzzling Hummer, like the Polish army deploying more horse cavalry to meet German and Soviet tanks in 1939.