Why are we importing oil from countries that are exporting lethal terrorism by groups who hate our freedoms and despise our way of life?” Senator Conrad Burns wondered out loud. In a September speech at the National Press Club in Washington, the Montana Republican bluntly discussed the risks of America’s dependency on rogue oil. “Last year,” he said, “we sent $4 billion to Saddam Hussein in oil money. Some of our allies call it Oil-for-Food. But I say we call it what it is: Oil-for-Terror.”
Such transactions likely subsidized Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmed Al-Ani’s April 2001 meeting in Prague with September 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta. Moreover, U.S. imports of Arabian crude unwittingly help Saudi-backed charities pay $5,300 each to the families of West Bank homicide bombers.
“As Americans pumped money into the oil kingdom, the royal family was pumping millions into radical religious schools at home and abroad, globalizing their strict 18th century Wahhabi brand of Islam,” Stanley Weiss, former CEO of American Premier and chairman of Business Executives for National Security, wrote last spring in the Los Angeles Times. “From these hotbeds of hate graduated Osama bin Laden and 15 of the September 11 hijackers.”
How can America stop sending blood money to those who kill us and our friends?
Step one should be to increase domestic petroleum production. Unfortunately, environmentalists and stunningly myopic, overwhelmingly Democratic senators have blocked even modest oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Offshore oil drilling is largely off limits and fields in the continental United States are pretty much tapped.
Step two, then, is to help develop overseas oil resources outside the Middle East. Ample resources exist in places that are not engaged in anti-American jihad. Abutting Russia and Kazakhstan, the Caspian Sea boasts proven reserves of 33 billion barrels of oil. Some 233 billion more barrels potentially could be uncovered there, equal to at least 20 percent of Earth’s reserves.
Russian oil deposits may be even more generous. Roughly 49 billion barrels rest below that country’s vast land mass. With minimal outside investment, Russia already pumps 6.9 million barrels daily, almost as much as Saudi Arabia. Jeffrey E. Garten of the Yale School of Management believes that by modernizing its antiquated pipelines, Russia could pump as much as 10.4 million barrels. Privatization and the introduction of Western engineering would transform Russia into a key oil producer, furthering Russian prosperity in the process.
The Gulf of Guinea also could help satisfy U.S. oil demand. As National Review‘s Rich Lowry argues, U.S. investors and diplomats could serve America well if they could overcome “a sneering tendency to dismiss the strategic significance of anything African.” The largely offshore oil fields between the Ivory Coast and Angola yield low-sulfur petroleum. This is perfect for developing gasoline at U.S. refineries and is easily transported across the Atlantic. By contrast, tankers full of Persian Gulf oil must traverse the Straits of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and other choke points. By 2006, Sub-Saharan Africa could supply 8 million barrels daily, up from 4 million today.
Step three: Canadian oil sands-a mixture of clay, sand and water that contains a molasses-like form of fuel-could offer a nearby, friendly fuel source. By liberating a fraction of the 300 billion barrels of oil that adheres to sands in Alberta, Syncrude last year produced 223,000 barrels a day. It hopes to generate 360,000 barrels by 2005 and 550,000 by 2012. The mounting labor costs and high capital investments required to extract, truck, process and reclaim oil sands financially challenge this industry. Still, CEO Rick George told shareholders on April 26 that he remains confident of “our goal of being the lowest-cost oil producer in North America and one of the top 10 publicly traded oil companies in the world.”
As America wages its War on Terror, it immediately should adopt a strategy to reduce or eliminate our reliance on rogue oil. We should follow the advice Winston Churchill offered as World War II loomed: “Safety and certainty in oil lie in variety and variety alone.”
New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a Media Fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.