Oil: America's Kryptonite


Change in America is slow; the larger the change, the slower the pace. Eliminating our oil dependency is a change we have been talking about for 40 years. Much of the discussion revolves around economics, but this ignores another, arguably more important side of the issue. America’s continuing dependence on oil is an enormous strategic liability.

If you look up the term "strategic liability" in the dictionary, there should be a picture of oil under it.

Oil costs are prohibitive and unpredictable. Gas costs us $400 per gallon in Afghanistan; we pay $88 per soldier per day in Iraq for fuel costs. While defense spending has long been a sacred cow, it is now on the chopping block. A smaller budget means a smaller military where every dollar counts; even small increases in fuel costs translate to thousands of dollars. As oil prices continue upward and remain volatile, our commanders might have to worry if they can afford the gas to conduct operations or will have to use a smaller force than necessary for the job. This may put our troops downrange and our security at home in jeopardy.

Oil creates soft targets for our foes. Experts have always been concerned about the liability of oil transport by land and sea to attacks. NATO convoys in Pakistan and fuel convoys in Iraq have been constant targets, and there have been several attacks on oil tankers in the Persian GulfIndia, and Indonesia. The thousands of oil wells and miles of pipelines throughout the world are impossible to be adequately secured; oil infrastructures in NigeriaTurkey, and even Mexico were attacked. Any interruption in supply causes prices to shoot up and costs us billions every time.

Oil forces us into a partnership with countries that oppose our values, or even with our enemies. America is the world’s largest oil consumer, and there is no question that our need for oil causes us to look the other way when our suppliers step on human rights, equality, and democracy. Moreover, we sell them arms and give trade concessions just to keep them happy. If we did not need oil, we would not need to do this in countries like Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Our need has put us into bed with regimes we have later fought; think Iran, Iraq, and Libya. Oil dependence causes us to surrender our freedom to act.

Continuing to depend on oil is an enormous strategic liability, limits our choices of action, and is harmful to our security. Eliminating our need for oil will make us independent again, and take a weapon out of the hands of those who oppose America. We have been debating the issue for 40 years, it is time to act. Breaking our dependence on oil is vital to our national security.

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