- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 6, 2006

Iran’s vast oil and gas resources undermine the Iranian regime’s claim it needs a nuclear program for domestic energy needs. Iran has the world’s third-largest known oil reserves and second-largest natural gas reserves. However, support for terrorism and economic mismanagement have damaged oil and gas development in Iran.

Importantly, Iran is a founding member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and participates in the cartel’s restrictive output practices which drive up prices and affect Americans at the pump. As the oil price has surged, Iran’s net oil export revenue has reached record levels, nearly doubling from $23.7 billion in 2003 to $46.6 billion in 2005. Much of this capacity is sucked up by China and Japan. The United States buys no Iranian oil.

For three decades, OPEC has manipulated the oil market. The major Middle Eastern protagonists, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, together with countries such as Algeria and Venezuela, are part of the cartel. These radical nations openly collude to restrict oil output and massively inflate the cost. For 50 years, until the oil embargo of 1973, Arabian Light crude sold for less than $2.50 per barrel. Thirty years later that same barrel costs under $5 to produce and sells for well over $70. This cartel is simply extorting the American people.

Oil alone would easily support Iran’s energy requirements for many, many decades. However, they need not worry. They also own the abundant reserves of natural gas. Only Russia holds more natural gas. Despite this abundance, the regime has developed less than 40 percent of its natural gas reserves. Iran is clearly not starving for energy sources.

Iran’s gas production has more than doubled in the last 10 years. The South Pars gas field in the Persian Gulf is the largest natural gas deposit in the world. Developing South Pars is Iran’s single largest energy project, which already has attracted more than $15 billion in investments from China, Russia and elsewhere. Natural gas now accounts for close to half of Iran’s total energy consumption.

Domestically, Iran sets low prices for oil products and natural gas. A gallon of gasoline sells for less than 40 cents; in the U.S. it goes for well more than $3.

Iran has announced new projects in exploration, pipelines, liquefied natural gas and petrochemicals. So where is the rationale for Iran’s claim that it requires nuclear energy? There is none.

The facts clearly illustrate there is absolutely no peaceful requirement for Iran to pursue its nuclear program. Without question, the greatest immediate threat to the international community is the Iranian leadership, led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Council (IRGC).

Military experts report that the IRGC controls Iran’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This includes biological and chemical weapons stockpiles, as well as warheads that can deliver a WMD attack.

As we continue to unearth diverse terror cells, and bore deeper into their finances and recruitment, it is becoming clearer that Iran is an epicenter of unremitting extremist violence. Iran is a rogue state, which will soon have nuclear weapons.

Iran has an enormous energy stockpiles. Yet the regime insists on aggressive politics, pursues threatening nuclear technology, manipulates the international oil price through OPEC, and drives a wedge between energy demand and supply at home by limiting consumer prices while impeding foreign investment. Iran does not need nuclear energy; it needs to reconnect with the world, realign its disjointed priorities and develop its vast oil and natural gas resources.

Jim Saxton, New Jersey Republican, is chairman of the congressional Joint Economic Committee and of the House of Representatives’ Armed Services Terrorism and Unconventional Threats Subcommittee.

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