Time To Wake Up America and Tell Arabs to shove their Oil.

There’s a legitimate debate right now about what America should do about ISIS, Syria and the Middle East at large.

No one in Washington though wants to talk about the real reason we’re there in the first place: Oil.

We’re dependent on foreign oil and OPEC has it, so keeping peace in the Middle East has been our top foreign policy priority for over 30 years. Over the last decade alone we spent more than $4 trillion and lost thousands of American men and women on military missions to protect Middle East oil.

How long is this going to last?

It was over 40 years ago, November 7, 1973, that President Nixon first called in a major speech for action on an energy plan called “Project Independence”.

The proximate event for the speech was the OPEC oil embargo. OPEC, especially the Middle East members, wanted to influence American foreign policy with regard to Israel and used oil as the lever.

When the OPEC embargo hit, Americans began to recognize how vulnerable our dependence on foreign oil had made us.

Today, 40 years later we are twice as dependent on foreign oil as we were when Nixon gave that speech.

Why? Because we never adopted a national energy policy. Instead we adopted a national “military policy” based principally on protecting the very oil – Middle Eastern OPEC oil – from which Nixon had pledged to release us. Instead of having an energy policy that emphasizes American resources we pay whatever OPEC demands to buy oil that we also pay to guard.

While we use the Fifth Fleet to protect all of the oil coming through the Strait of Hormuz, we only get a little over 10 percent of it. The rest goes to Europe and Asia, with the lion’s share going to China.

Our petro-military policy has clearly put us into a position where we pay all the cost of protecting oil bound for China. That’s a pretty good deal for OPEC and a great deal for China, but a terrible deal for America.

In the 40 years since the Nixon speech OPEC has raised the heat on us – the price of its oil – slowly enough so we haven’t noticed. Prior to the embargo the average price of gasoline was about 40 cents per gallon. When prices spiked to 50 cents per gallon during the embargo, the drain on our economy was immediate and obvious.

Today, as you are all too aware, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline is around $3. That is far higher than the inflation-adjusted price of $2.58 that is the embargo-bloated price of 50 cents

That’s only for the price of the gasoline. If we factor in the costs of the thousands of U.S. service members killed, the tens of thousands wounded and the more than $8 trillion (about half the national debt) spent in the Middle East from 1980 until today, the price we have paid to maintain our relationship with OPEC is obviously expensive, dangerous, and it isn’t working – we are paying much more per gallon of gas today than we did during the height of the embargo.

Time to wake up folks.

America will never free itself from fighting in the Middle East unless we break our addiction to foreign oil, so any real exit strategy needs to include greater use of our vast domestic energy resources.

A key objective is eliminating once and for all the national security and economic threats posed by our dependence on OPEC oil.

Fortunately America has the resources to answer this problem if the leadership to do something can be found.

  1. With horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing we have gained access to huge amounts of domestic oil and natural gas. Let’s use it everywhere we can – power generation, transportation, manufacturing. Sure, let’s allow exports of domestic natural gas, but also demand our policymakers put a premium on creating domestic demand and improving our economy on the backs of our cheap energy, not other nations’ economies.
  2. If we add Mexico and Canada into a North American Energy Alliance and build the Keystone XL pipeline, our need for Middle Eastern oil will be further minimized – perhaps eliminated. Can you believe it’s been almost six years since the Keystone XL pipeline extension was proposed? I can’t. The application was filed in September 2008 and it still hasn’t been approved.  Over 200 billion barrels of oil are available from our Canadian neighbor. Unlike the 1.7 million barrels we import every day from the Middle East, we won’t need to send our military overseas to protect this oil. All we need is a decision. What on earth are we waiting for? The Keystone deal is a no-brainer. It has so many advantages for America and no disadvantages and we are still procrastinating God knows why.
  3. On the same note, I am not sure why we are not using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as a truly strategic resource and reduce our dependence on OPEC oil immediately, generating income to help pay for advancement of alternative sources of energy while reforming outdated and misguided state tax rules and regulations that will help eliminate barriers to alternative transportation fuels and create competition in the fuel marketplace. Go figure why there’s still no action on the part of our policy makers.

We have the resources to reach the goal set by Richard Nixon and the six Presidents who have followed him: An America freed from the costs of protecting oil we don’t need or want, by utilizing our own, domestic energy resources.

America is at a crossroads. We can continue to worry about events taking place in the Middle East or Ukraine, or we can get on our own resources so that we can improve our own economy, our own environment, and our own security or we can tell Arabs they can shove their oil and swallow it too if they prefer.

If anything, we should focus on exporting our oil and gas industry’s technology and expertise to help Europe help themselves as Europe has become similarly dependent on Russian energy.

Forty years ago, the Arab Oil Embargo changed the way America thinks about energy. After finding ourselves at the mercy of a bunch of oil states, we panicked. The government put price controls in place, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was launched, and all oil exports were banned.

Today, and thanks to recent breakthroughs in technology, our country’s energy picture has taken a dramatic turn for the better. The U.S. now imports about half the oil it consumes – some 8 to 9 million barrels a day – and we export more than 3 million barrels of oil products, such as gasoline and diesel, every day.

Does it make sense for us to ban oil exports at the same time we’re shipping millions of barrels of oil products overseas? It might be time to revisit that policy and finally take control of our destiny. Don’t you think so?

Share your thoughts…

Written by

Ziad Abdelnour is a political activist and is the Founder and President of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon.