Each day’s headlines underscore a central reality of our time: The United States has no choice but to make real progress on energy security–specifically by reducing the exclusive reliance of America’s transportation sector on gasoline and diesel fuels, most of which are derived from oil imported from overseas. Consider a sampler of recent developments in nations from which we obtain such oil:
Saudi Arabia: Sunday’s Los Angeles Times gave prominent treatment to expressions of growing frustration by U.S. officials about the lack of Saudi cooperation in countering terrorism. The bottom line is that, while the Saudis may be trying to crack down on terrorist operations within the Kingdom, they continue to support the Islamofascists, the terror they wield as a weapon elsewhere around the world and the large and growing global infrastructure that enables them to be so dangerous. We are funding both sides in this war for the free world, as our petrodollars are enabling much of the threat we most immediately confront. This is an intolerable–and unsustainable–situation.
Russia: Vladimir Putin’s increasingly authoritarian regime has demonstrated anew the Kremlin’s traditional willingness to use energy exports as an instrument of economic and political warfare. While the immediate target of the most recent such warfare was Ukraine, every other nation–including the United States–that contemplates reliance on Russian natural gas and oil supplies is on notice: Russia cannot be viewed as reliable source.
Mexico: The Washington Times reported earlier this week that armed units, at least some of whom are believed to be members of the Mexican army, have made over 200 incursions inside the United States over the past nine years. Some have included firefights with U.S. border-patrol officers. With the likely election of a radical anti-American leftist, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, as the next president of Mexico, relations between the two nations are sure to become even more strained–with potentially significant repercussions for Mexican oil imports to this country.
Nigeria: Islamists are increasingly destabilizing Africa’s most productive oil-exporting nation, with attacks on the industry’s infrastructure and personnel a tool in their campaign to establish control over the main source of the country’s wealth and to impose sharia in Muslim areas–and beyond. Such attacks have recently taken off line one-tenth of the country’s output. The threat to foreign investment in the country and the reliability of its supply of oil is only likely to increase.
Venezuela: The ever-more-despotic and -ambitious president, Hugo Chavez, is seeking to consolidate his rule at home and facilitate his destabilizing and aggressive designs elsewhere in the hemisphere. Among other techniques being used for these purposes is Chavez’s ludicrous declaration that the United States is preparing to invade his country. He has threatened in the past to interrupt oil supplies to the U.S. It is entirely possible that, at some point, he may decide to do so.
Iran: While the United States does not buy oil directly from Iran, the availability of Iranian crude in the international market–or, more precisely, the lack thereof–can have a significant impact on prices American consumers pay for gasoline and other petroleum-based products. The escalating crisis precipitated by an Iranian regime bent on acquiring nuclear weapons and threatening the destruction of Israel and “a world without America” could well translate into possibly lengthy disruptions in the availability of Iranian (and perhaps other Persian Gulf-originated) oil exports.
Sudan: As with Iranian oil, U.S. sanctions on the terrorist-sponsoring, slave-trading, weapons-of-mass-destruction-proliferating and genocidal regime in Khartoum means that Sudanese oil supplies are not directly available to the American market. The ongoing, horrific state-sponsored assaults on the people of Darfur, however, raises the possibility that the so-called “international community” may finally be shamed into taking action to punish the Islamosfascist government of Sudan, with repercussions for its oil exports and global markets.
Virtually alone among major oil-exporting nations, Canada’s capacity and willingness to provide its energy resources to America remains steady and strong. There, as elsewhere, however, the ability of Communist China to recycle its immense trade surpluses by buying up oil, coal, natural gas, and other energy assets raises questions about the future availability of Canadian petroleum exports, to say nothing of their ability to offset shortfalls that might be associated with one or the other of the foregoing problems.
There is simply no way America’s leaders can responsibly further defer concrete actions needed to reduce the amount of oil we use in that part of our society and economy where most of it is consumed: the transportation sector. In a new book, War Footing: Ten Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World, I’m among those who describe these actions–which comprise the “Set America Free” Blueprint and which will, if implemented, provide the United States with fuel choice. The time has come to make far more widely available supplies of alternative fuels (ethanol, methanol and electricity); to ensure that every car sold in America is flexible-fuel compatible and that as many as possible are plug-in hybrids; and to ensure that the necessary, relatively modest adjustments are made to our transportation infrastructure.
This agenda should be a top priority in President Bush’s upcoming State of the Union address and at the top of the legislative program for the new session of Congress.
–Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is a contributor to NRO and the lead author of War Footing: Ten Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World (Naval Institute Press, 2005).