July 9, 2008
The past few months have been a rude reminder of just how dependent our way of life is on foreign oil. The skyrocketing price of crude oil has affected more than our driving habits and vacation plans—no doubt you know this if you have looked at your last grocery bill!
What is almost as bad as the price hikes is the frustration at knowing that this vulnerability did not sneak up on us unannounced. Since the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s, Americans have known we are dangerously dependent on foreign oil. When I worked for President Nixon, we announced a grand campaign for energy independence. And President Carter famously called his plan the "moral equivalent of war."
Yet more than three decades later—here we are. The only thing that has changed is that we are more dependent on foreign oil than we were before! In 1973, we imported 28 percent of our oil. Today, it is closer to 60 percent.
What's more, as Robert Samuelson noted in the Washington Post, "Most imports come from countries that are potentially insecure, unstable or hostile."
That is an understatement: Those countries are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Iraq. As Frank Gaffney, a national security expert, wrote in the National Review, the war against terrorism and American energy security are inseparable.
So how do we achieve that security?
Obviously, conservation and alternative energy sources are important. Even if you do not care a wit about the environment—and all Christians have to—it would be foolish not to conserve natural resources.
But conservation and alternatives are not enough. Ours is a hydrocarbon-based economy, and it will be some time before we make the transition to other sources. In the meantime, we must exploit the resources we have here at home, which includes opening previously off-limit areas of the United States for oil exploration and drilling.
The words offshore drilling are enough to set environmentalists' teeth on edge. They recall the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill that led to the current restrictions on offshore drilling.
But while our need for energy security has not changed, our ability to exploit these potential resources in a safe and responsible manner has. Regulation and oversight of production has gotten much stricter. Obviously, such exploitation is not risk-free—then again, neither is importing oil. My own state of Florida, which prohibits such exploration, is no stranger to oil spills, only the ones we have had were caused by spills from tankers transporting imported oil.
For too long, pampered, narcissistic Americans have wanted to have their cake—that is, no drilling—and eat it at the same time—that is, low gas prices. But there are some signs Americans are waking up. According to a recent poll, 67 percent now favor offshore drilling.
So it is time we press Congress to act. Remember, in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. Congress has, so far, failed to act because they want to pander to us. I say it is time for us to tell them to get busy. We need this for our national security, and for the sake of our economy. Some environmentalists believe that it would be a good thing to have eight-dollar-a-gallon gas. But it would be a disaster for ordinary, working Americans.
It is time the American people made it very clear to our leaders: We refuse to be held hostage any longer by either radical environmentalists or foreign oil.