Ending Oil Addiction

New York Times Editorial

Published: 22-Feb-2002

President Bush's grand design for reducing America's vulnerability to terrorism lacks one obvious and critical piece — a realistic strategy for reducing America's crippling reliance on imported oil, especially petroleum from the Persian Gulf. Reducing our dependence on gulf oil would increase our flexibility in the war on terrorism and in other areas of foreign policy as well. If the Bush administration took the most practical approach and explored new methods of energy conservation, the effort could also yield important technological gains and reduce America's unconscionably large contribution to global warming.

Right now, the United States uses 25 percent of the world's oil production even though it has only 4 percent of the world's population and 3 percent of its reserves. Two-thirds of world reserves, more than 600 billion barrels, belong to the nations of the Persian Gulf. No matter how many holes are punched on American soil, we simply cannot drill our way to energy independence. The route lies elsewhere.

Buying oil from many different nations would help, up to a point. Compared with its allies, the United States already has an advantage in this regard. The gulf supplies only one-quarter of total imports, or 14 percent of the total consumption of seven billion barrels a year. Hemispheric neighbors like Canada and Mexico supply well over 40 percent, and they could be asked for more. Africa remains an important source, while other potential suppliers are ramping up production. Together, Russia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have more than 6 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, more than the United States and Canada combined, and exploration in the former Soviet Union is continuing.



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