David B. Sandalow
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies
The Brookings Institution
Committee on Foreign Affairs
“Rising Oil Prices, Declining National Security”
May 22, 2008
Chairman Berman, Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen and Members of the Committee --
Last year, more than 96% of the energy in our cars and trucks came from oil.
This seems normal to us. We grew up in a world in which oil was the only fuel used to move cars and trucks. So did our parents. So did our grandparents.
But it is fundamentally abnormal for the entire global transportation system to rely on a single commodity.
If I’m thirsty and don’t feel like a glass of water, I can have soda or orange juice. If I’m hungry and don’t feel like eating a hamburger, I can have a hot dog or pasta. But if I want to travel any significant distance in the world today and don’t want to use petroleum, I’m basically out of luck.
The overwhelming dependence of the global transportation system on this one commodity creates national security threats we ignore at our peril.
Today I’ll identify four such threats, noting in particular ways in which rising oil prices exacerbate them. I’ll conclude with a recommendation for the single most important step we can take to solve this problem.
First, oil dependence strengthens Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists.
more than 50 years, the need to protect oil flows has shaped
These steps to secure oil flows have come at a cost. By making us central players in a region torn by ancient rivalries, oil dependence has exposed us to resentment, vulnerability and attack. Osama bin Laden’s first fatwa, in 1996, was titled “Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places.”
deep resentment of the
these problems, the huge money flows into the
The sharp increase in oil prices in recent months deepens these problems, further enriching those who fund terrorists committed to our destruction.
Second, oil dependence
strengthens oil-exporting nations that oppose
leading oil exporters pursue policies that threaten the
into the cost of every barrel. This puts
pressure on governments around the world to minimize “saber-rattling” against
short, three decades after
the first oil shocks -- and a quarter-century after the humiliating capture of
oil-exporting nations pose problems as well.
President Hugo Chavez of
Here again, rising oil prices enhance the wealth and power of those who wish us ill, putting all Americans at risk.
Third, oil dependence endangers our men and women in uniform.
Oil dependence jeopardizes
the safety of our troops. In
In July 2006,
Major General Richard Zilmer, commander of coalition forces in western
“…personnel loss rates are likely to continue at their current rate...[with the] potential to jeopardize mission success.”
Rising oil prices also put budgetary strains on the Pentagon, a leading purchaser of petroleum products.
Finally, oil dependence undermines democracy and good governance around the world.
Oil wealth corrodes democratic institutions. This dynamic is not inevitable, but it is widespread. A growing body of scholarly work explores this topic, concluding that oil wealth is strongly associated with corruption and authoritarian rule. New York Times Foreign Affairs columnist Tom Friedman has written about the “First Law of Petropolitics” -- that the price of oil and pace of freedom move in opposite directions.
A few examples
underscore these trends.
So what can we do about it? There are many solutions. In my short time today, I’ll highlight one – plug-in electric vehicles.
To reduce oil dependence, nothing would do more good more quickly than making cars that connect to the electric grid.
Plug-in electric vehicles are a game-changing technology. They can break our oil addiction, cut driving costs and reduce pollution. To help end the United States’ oil dependence, there is no higher priority than putting millions of plug-in electric vehicles on the road soon.
And here’s the
good news – these cars are on the way, soon.
General Motors says its plug-in Chevy Volt will be in showrooms by 2010.
Yet Congress needs to act, to pick up the pace of this transition. Tax incentives for the purchase of these vehicles would quickly build the market. The federal government should use its enormous purchasing power to help bring these cars to market as well.
Chairman Berman, Ranking Member Ros-Lehtinen and Members of the Committee,
I drove to this hearing in a plug-in electric vehicle. Each night I plug the car into a regular outlet in my garage. It gets 30 miles on a charge, which means I use almost no gasoline on a normal day driving back and forth to work. After 30 miles, the car automatically switches over to its gasoline engine, giving me all the driving range I want at any time.
And here’s some good news, in this era of rising oil prices – driving on electricity costs me the equivalent of 75 cents per gallon.
Thank you, I’d be delighted to answer your questions.