TCS Daily

Energy Security is National Security

By Ken Adelman - October 31, 2001 12:00 AM

The Attorney General's latest warning of possible terrorist attacks portends a particular danger at home. But few officials are now warning of a general danger from abroad - a disruption to the nation's life-blood of energy supplies.

While U.S. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's urging Tuesday that law enforcement agencies and private companies remain on high alert for possible attacks in the energy sector was a good first step, more needs to be done to address America's key vulnerability: increasing dependence on Persian Gulf oil, and other energy sources outside the hemisphere.

This has become among the top dangers we face over the next few months. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham - a wise and dedicated public servant I' ve known for 15 years - is one of the lone voices warning of the risk posed by the destabilization of those shaky sheikdoms and mullahcracies in the Gulf upon which we rely so much - and so short-sightedly.

Secretary Abraham recently framed the issue nicely to an audience at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. "We recall the Yom Kippur War, the fall of the Shah, and Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait...each resulted in oil shocks. Some observers have identified six distinct oil crises since the Second World War."

Secretary Abraham then popped the apt question. "Are we really prepared for a seventh?"

The simple answer is: No.

Not if our oil imports have risen from 47 percent ten years ago to a whopping 60 percent today.

Not if we import more than two and a half times the amount of oil we imported in 1974 (2.5 million barrels a day now vs. 1 million then).

Not if the Strategic Petroleum Reserve now contains only 545 million barrels, slightly more than half the amount intended when established (and less even than its current capacity of 700 million).

Not when the challenge of a 30 percent rise in U.S. energy consumption over the next 20 years is met with business as usual in the Congress.

And not if Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle continues to stall the President's far-sighted energy package - which passed the House last August - because of Washington's old-style hold by special interests.

"A Military Necessity"

Opponents of the President's energy plan adorn their campaign against economic and energy development under the banner of "environmental concerns." Granted, Americans are traditionally sensitive to the environment. That sensitivity has enabled us to clean up our air and water impressively over the years. And our forests ranges, already vast, have been expanding for decades.

And while Americans today must be sensitive to our environment, we must be even more sensitive to our national security.

So, for example, while the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is scenically magnificent, it can be just as magnificent with some development of its vast oil reserves - now estimated to equal ten years of Persian Gulf oil imports.

As Secretary Abraham explained, "Drilling operations that once required 65 acres need only 10 today. New drilling pads are 70 percent smaller than those of just 20 years ago."

Our military - so needed now to wage war against terrorists in Afghanistan and, I hope, soon in Iraq and other states that support terrorism - needs sustainable and varied energy sources to function effectively.

"The connection" between energy and national security "begins with the obvious," Secretary Abraham reminded us. "We can't run our fleet, fly our aircraft, or move land forces without energy. Access to energy is a military necessity."

America cannot be as strong as we'd like unless we become less reliant on energy beyond this Hemisphere. This takes added production here and in neighboring Mexico and Canada.

And that in turn takes not only expanded oil and natural gas production but also vigorous development of more clean coal, nuclear power, and power from air, water and geothermal sources.

In a grander sense, greater energy self-sufficiency will help maintain America in all her splendor. After the 1970s oil price hike led to a major energy crisis, President Carter lamented the "malaise" of the nation. Americans suddenly felt pessimistic about our future.

"An energy crisis can sap our will, as it drains our confidence in the future," Secretary Abraham said. "Its implications go beyond economic disruptions."

Far beyond - to our national security and our very well being as a great nation.

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