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George Shultz: US Must Do More to Cut Oil Dependence

Image: George Shultz: US Must Do More to Cut Oil Dependence

By Dan Weil   |   Tuesday, 05 Nov 2013 12:49 PM

As the United States marks the 40th anniversary of the OPEC oil embargo, it must continue its effort to wean citizens off foreign oil, says former Secretary of State George Shultz.

And the country is in a great position to do just that, Shultz says in an op-ed in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal.

"America's energy revolution — which is taking place on both the supply and demand sides — has the potential to disrupt the status quo to the nation's considerable economic and foreign-policy advantage," he says in a piece co-written with FedEx chairman Fred Smith.

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"On the supply side, the domestic energy boom has reestablished the U.S. as a production powerhouse." The country will become the second largest producer of liquid fuels by year-end, according to the International Energy Agency.

"At the same time, the rise of oil-displacement technologies is creating an unprecedented opportunity to reduce U.S. oil consumption in the transportation sector," Shultz and Smith say.

"Electricity and natural gas are both cheap and domestically abundant. There are now nearly 20 plug-in electric passenger vehicle models ... available to U.S. consumers."

Taking full advantage of the opportunities created by the American energy revolution requires an effort that "prioritizes investment in the development of advanced energy technologies — such as low-cost advanced batteries for electric vehicles and more-efficient home refueling units for natural gas vehicles — along with continued growth in domestic energy production," the duo says.

Policy disagreements in Washington complicate the issue, Shultz and Smith say.

"To move forward, we suggest establishing oil displacement as a national goal. Such a target would advance the goals of robust economic growth, improved environmental protection and effective foreign policy," the duo writes.

"Best of all, a national consensus on reducing oil dependence should be possible without the resolution of the energy and environmental issues that will continue to be debated for some time."

OPEC's dominance of the oil market has cost us trillions, Shultz and Smith say. "An American government policy response to counter OPEC's market manipulation would be in support of the free market."

At the same time, lowering oil usage would "reduce pollution significantly," Shultz and Smith say. "The wide-scale adoption of alternative-fuel vehicles powered by natural gas, electricity and other fuels—or a flexible fuel combination—would represent a major environmental achievement."

Lessening our reliance on oil also would aid our foreign policy, the pair writes. "For realists and idealists alike, such independence holds tremendous value as the country contends with a fragmenting Middle East, an unstable North Africa, and a contentious Russia, among other challenges."

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Shultz, 92, was treasury secretary under Richard Nixon when the OPEC oil embargo was imposed on Nov. 5, 1973. He went on to become secretary of state for the last 5½ years of Ronald Reagan's presidency.

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