- The Washington Times - Friday, September 19, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

Deja vu is the French term which describes that funny feeling that you have some how already experienced a particular event; in fact the phrase literally translates as “already seen.”

After hearing about OPEC’s latest announcement that it will cut oil production by around a half a million barrels of oil per day (bpd) to shore up “falling prices,” I cannot help but wonder why today’s energy crisis hasn’t given more of my colleagues in Washington a powerful sense of deja vu that we are reliving the worst days of the 1970s all over again.

Back then, the poor U.S. economic policy of price controls and windfall tax only contributed to what OPEC began. Today OPEC’s tactics may have changed - manipulating supply to jack up the price versus an outright embargo - but the results are eerily the same; Americans struggling to pay high gasoline and home heating oil prices, and America’s economy teetering on the brink of recession.

The old adage goes that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Apart from creating the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the United States did painfully little during the last 30 years to make sure that OPEC could never again use oil as a weapon against us. If anything, we put ourselves further under the thumb of foreign oil. In 1972, we imported approximately 28 percent of the oil we consume from foreign countries; today the United States imports 62 percent of its oil from other nations. While half of that amount comes from our friends in Mexico and Canada, the other half of our imported oil comes from unstable, undemocratic or unfriendly regimes. That means that every time you fill up your gas tank, at least half of your hard-earned dollars goes from your pocketbook into the economies of OPEC nations, including (in order by largest supplier) Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Angola and Algeria. If OPEC continues to reduce production, or a major storm - such as the recent hurricanes that have been bearing down on America’s Gulf Coast oil production facilities - disrupts supply, it is not hard to imagine oil prices shooting past the record $147 a barrel set back in July of this year. If that should happen, the impact on our economy would be catastrophic. Oil enables us to get to work, drive our kids to school, power our homes and haul our goods to market. Whether we like it or not, oil is the backbone source of energy that drives our economy.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, of even greater concern than our economic security is the threat our dependence on foreign oil poses to our national security. If we want proof of that, I think we need to look no further than the recent Russian invasion of Georgia, which was met with lukewarm resistance by Western Europe largely because of fear that harsh criticism of the invasion would push Russia to turn off its flow of natural gas to Europe. Overall, Russian gas imports account for 26 percent of EU consumption; in Central and Eastern Europe, though, Russian gas accounts for 60 percent of consumption. You can be sure that countries like Venezuela, which continues to threaten democracy and deny its citizens basic rights, watched what happened in Georgia and learned that being heavily dependent on others for energy makes you weak. If we don’t also learn that lesson and end our dependence on foreign sources of energy, we are putting ourselves in grave danger.

If there is any silver lining in our current energy crisis it is the fact that more and more Americans are starting to realize that our dependence on foreign sources of energy is not due to a lack of domestic resources, but to decades of political pandering to radical environmental special interest groups. The United States has vast oil and natural-gas deposits sitting untouched in Alaska and off the Continental Shelf. We have the largest reserves of coal in the world, which, if utilized through currently available coal-to-liquid technology, would equate to 5 million barrels of oil per day by 2030. We have been called the Saudi Arabia of oil shale because we have oil-shale deposits that could yield between 1.8 trillion and 8 trillion barrels of oil. The only thing standing in the way of using these resources is partisan politics.

I say enough is enough! We can no longer allow the partisan pandering to special -interest groups keep us from accessing our own natural resources and freeing us from dependence on foreign despots. We all know that drilling is not the whole solution, but it is an important part in the short-term. Like it or not, our current economy depends upon oil and we need to keep our factories running, our homes, schools and businesses heated and our cars and trucks on the road. At the same time we should invest in the necessary research to make our vehicles, homes and buildings more efficient and make renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, and clean-coal more integrated into our electric grid.

We are reliving history today, and if we do not wish to relive it yet again, for the sake of our economy and even more for the sake of our national defense, we must become energy independent now.

Rep. Dan Burton is an Indiana Republican.

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