Getting 500 MPG Would Certainly 'Set America Free'

Set America Free estimates that if we convert entirely to flexible-fuel, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, U.S. gasoline imports in 20 years will drop by two-thirds.

Published: 03-Apr-2005

ing oil prices are not much of an economic or political issue. Yet.

In absolute terms, today's prices are still half the 1970s peaks, and the U.S. economy has become much less dependent on petroleum since then. (Computers run on electricity, not gasoline.) But imagine what would happen if al-Qaida were to hit the giant Ras Tanura terminal in Saudi Arabia, where one-tenth of global oil supplies are processed every day. Prices could soar past $100 a barrel, and the U.S. economy could go into a tailspin. As it is, high oil prices provide money for Saudi Arabia to subsidize hate-spewing madrasas and for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Both Democrats and Republicans know this, but neither party is serious about solving this growing crisis. Democrats who couldn't tell the difference between a caribou and a cow grandstand about the sanctity of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, even though 70 percent of Alaskans are happy to see a bit of drilling in that remote tundra. Republicans, for their part, pretend that tapping ANWR will somehow solve all of our problems. If only. A government study finds that, with ANWR on line, the United States would be able to reduce its dependence on imported oil from 68 percent to 65 percent in 2025.

How to do better? Biking to work or taking the train isn't the answer. Even if Americans drive less, global oil demand will surge because of breakneck growth in India and China. The Middle East, home of two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves, will remain of vital strategic importance unless we can develop alternative sources of automotive propulsion and substantially decrease global, not just American, demand for petroleum. An ambitious agenda to achieve those goals has been produced by Set America Free, a group set up by R. James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney and other national-security hawks.

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