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Commentary Magazine


Getting Over Oil

September 15, 2005

By Peter W. Huber, Mark P. Mills

The United States consumes about 7 billion barrels of oil a year. Quite a few of those barrels come to our shores from the Persian Gulf, a fact that has elicited, since 9/11, a surprising convergence in our politics. Today, it is not just left-wing environmentalists who complain about our consumption of oil but also a range of sober-minded centrists and conservatives, from commentators like Fareed Zakaria and Max Boot to former Clinton CIA director R. James Woolsey to one-time Republican officials like Robert McFarlane, C. Boyden Gray, and Frank Gaffney. The concerns of these "oil hawks: (or, less felicitously, "geo-greens," as the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman calls them) touch only incidentally on the environmental issues that previously drove most energy activists. Their primary aim is not to "save the earth" but rather to secure our own small corner of it.

The oil hawks' agenda was neatly summarized in a letter sent to President Bush earlier this year by the Energy Future Coalition (EFC), an umbrella group that also includes a range of Democratic pragmatists and Al-Gore-style environmentalists. The EFC's basic analysis of the problem is as straightforward as it is familiar: America's dependence on imported oil threatens both our economic well-being and the physical safety of our homeland. While we face increased consumption by the rising economies of China and India, and thus greater risk to our own supplies, the "foreign interests" that benefit from our dependence—a euphemism for the sundry extremisms of the Middle East—"have used oil revenues in ways that harm our national security."

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