An 'all-of-the-above" approach is needed for U.S. energy production in order to secure America's national security, according to retired military officials gathered at the Securing America's Future Energy Conference last week.
In panels and discussions at the Washington, D.C., gathering, speakers made the point that while there should be pursuit of oil through new production venues, such as the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, it also is important to pursue policies focused on diversifying fuels used in the transportation sector, including electric and natural gas vehicles.
Failure to take this approach, the conference concluded, could leave the U.S. at the continued mercy of foreign overlords of oil, such as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
In an international arena that is increasingly unsafe and uncertain, this is unwise, said retired U.S. Marine Corps Commandant James Conway, who, along with Fred Smith of FedEx, co-chairs SAFE’s Energy Security Leadership Council.
"The term 'All of the above' that supporters of a multi-faceted approach to American energy don't usually consider is the issue of national security," Conway told Newsmax. "It ignores the fact we have to do something to reduce our dependence on a single fuel source because there are unfriendly nation-states –from the Middle East to Venezuela – on the other side."
Although U.S. oil imports have decreased thanks to enhanced domestic production, the nation continues to import around 35 percent of the oil it consumes. This is a tremendous improvement from the 60 percent the U.S. was importing in 2005, but it is almost identical to the percentage of our oil imports in 1973, when the nation faced the Arab oil embargo.
"That speaks volumes," Conway said.
While Conway and other SAFE leaders endorse greater domestic production, they have concluded that this is not enough to achieve the goal of security. They pointed out that even as U.S. domestic oil production was growing at a record pace in 2012, U.S. households, businesses, and public agencies spent a record $900 billion on petroleum fuels.
"Let's put it another way," said another member of the SAFE team, Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio state treasurer. "The Bush tax cuts have been erased at the pump in 10 years.Where the individual family's annual expenditure on gasoline was $1,235 in 2002, gasoline expenditures in 2012 for the average U.S. household reached $2,912, or just under 4 percent of income before taxes."
According to estimates from the Energy Information Agency, this is the highest percentage in 30 years, with the exception of 2008.
Along with supporting increased oil exploration, SAFE also supports pursuit of such alternatives as electric and natural-gas vehicles.
Founded in 2005, by retired Marine Gen. P.X. Kelley and Smith — chairman, CEO and founder of FedEx Corp., a Marine officer in Vietnam — SAFE advocates pursuing energy security through increasing domestic production of oil and gas and diversifying what fuels America's transportation sector. Along with Conway, retired admiral and former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair serves on the group's board.
"We're not picking winners and losers," Conway emphasized. "And we feel alternative-energy sources are additions and not replacements for oil. However, we also must accept that increased oil production is only part of the equation. When you are talking about national security, this is crucial to understand."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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