With bin Laden Gone, the Oil Threat Remains

Wednesday, 04 May 2011 01:26 PM

By Christopher Ruddy

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After the news broke that Osama bin Laden was killed, I thought back to the days after 9/11 and my conversations with Constantine Menges, one of President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council advisers.

At the time, Menges pointed out that, as bad as 9/11 was and as evil as bin Laden remained, the United States faced other potential 9/11s, but on a much greater scale.

Menges, whose books include "Inside the National Security Council," told me he had met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, warning them that the invasion of Iraq would lead to a powerful Iranian superstate that would threaten American interests.

He urged that the United States should send funds to support democratic movements in Iran.

But Menges was particularly worried about Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and the wealth he was obtaining through oil. Chavez, he said, would lead to catastrophes for the United States in Latin America.

Chavez has become a near dictator in Venezuela, flouting his country’s constitution. He has used his nation’s oil money to back up the despotic Castro regime. He also has backed left-wing candidates throughout Latin countries.

This effort has helped shift South and Central America to an anti-American socialist stance.

The real culprit here is oil. America, for a long time, has lived on cheap energy prices and has always had abundant resources. But our dependence on foreign oil has grown dramatically.

During the energy crisis decade of the 1970s, America imported as little as 21 percent of its oil.

Today we import about half of our oil.

Unfortunately, this country has been transferring vast amounts of its wealth because of high oil prices — more than $335 billion last year and surely more this year.

Gas, hovering at $4 per gallon, is more than double what it was just over a year-and-a-half ago and more than 400 percent higher than 10 years ago.

The threat is not simply an economic one but one of national survival. Author James Davidson writes in an upcoming issue of Newsmax’s sister publication Financial Intelligence Report that cheap oil made America a great nation.

He points to the demise of the British Empire at the end of World War II, noting that Britain’s lack of energy resources signaled the end of their pre-eminence.

Osama bin Laden,oil,Constantine Menges,Ronald Reagan,Colin Powell,Rumsfeld,Hugo Chavez,Iran,Castro
President Obama enters a hybrid Chevy Volt (Getty Images).
He sees parallels with the United States today.

Dealing with the energy crisis demands a coherent strategy — one based on the economic crisis here and the war on terror and future global threats.

There are many things the president can do to lower the price of oil and bring in alternative energy sources. For instance, a tax break for hybrid cars, like the Prius, which use both gas and electric power. A typical Prius will reduce oil consumption by about 50 percent compared to a conventional car.

Imagine if everybody had a $10,000 tax credit on such cars. My guess is we could move 30 percent of the U.S. car market over to hybrids within the next five years. Electric cars are also fine, but we need energy sources other than oil. However, the administration doesn’t favor coal-powered plants and has been slow to implement nuclear power.

The U.S. Navy has been using nuclear power in its ships and submarines safely for decades. There are scientists who say we could easily install these same small reactors in cities all over America, rather than construct the large-scale nuclear power plants that elicit so much anger from environmentalists.

In many countries, cars operate on both gasoline and natural gas, or methane. The mechanism to have such a switch in cars is inexpensive, but it is not available in U.S. cars. With natural gas so plentiful in the United States, why not?

There are obviously powerful institutional factors and inertia that are stopping us. But America needs to start thinking about how we will remain a superpower for the next 100 years.

A key element of economic and strategic success lies in reducing our dependence on oil and developing alternative forms of energy. Our security depends on it. We just need a president and a Congress willing to take action.

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