- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 10, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

This is the first of three excerpts from Tony Blankley’s new book “American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century” (Regnery, 2009)

Our national security is being held hostage by our reliance on foreign oil. We need a nationalist energy policy, one that secures the energy we need, at a cost we can afford, and ensures our independence. That sounds like a tall order - but it shouldn’t be. America’s current energy woes are the direct result of political failure, of the failure of our government to have the foresight and determination to achieve what should be obvious goals - goals that have been clear at least since the 1973 OPEC oil boycott.

While the war on Islamic terrorists receives the biggest headlines these days, countries are waging a constant struggle over the world’s energy resources. If current trends continue, competition for these resources will become even more intense. Tensions over resource rich areas, both on land and offshore, will result in an explosion of what has been called “resource wars.” There is only one way America can avoid getting drawn into these kinds of conflicts: by developing our own natural resources and breaking our energy dependence on foreign countries. If America fails to achieve this goal, the twenty-first century will be a much bloodier one for us than it need be.

Governments that use their natural resources to expand their international power are nothing new. But the explosion in energy prices over the last decade has provided an irresistible temptation for many governments to become more directly involved in energy production. When a strongman sees an opportunity to enhance his domestic popularity with oil-funded social programs and simultaneously gain leverage over oil-importing countries, it’s rare that he’ll look the other way.

Although neo-socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has not yet followed through on his periodic threats to ban oil sales to America, which consumes 60 percent of Venezuela’s oil exports, he has increased cooperation with American rivals such as China, Iran, Cuba, and Russia in hopes of increasing his leverage over the United States. He has pushed within OPEC to cut production levels in order to drive up oil prices and squeeze American consumers. Chavez will continue to gain leverage over America so long as we keep importing more than a million barrels of oil a month from him, making Venezuela one of the top four U.S. oil suppliers.

And thanks to their near-limitless oil wealth, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other countries have created their own sovereign wealth funds that actively invest in American companies. Although the managers of these funds inevitably claim that they only seek to maximize profits, these protestations are not credible; since these are state-run enterprises, their ultimate goal is to further their governments’ national interests. And the national interest of a country like Saudi Arabia is emblazoned on its flag for all to see - to spread the belief that “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”

We need to realize that the world is moving away from international free trade in energy. Instead of an energy trade based largely on supply and demand, supplies and prices are going to be dictated by the national interests of energy producing countries.

In the future, countries that cooperate with the foreign policy goals of major suppliers like Venezuela and Russia will be rewarded with plentiful supplies and reasonable prices, while states that defy them will quickly find themselves paying exorbitant rates for oil and natural gas. And control of energy supplies brings more than just diplomatic influence - massive dollar-denominated payments for oil supplies allow energy producers to accumulate huge dollar reserves that can be used to manipulate the value of the dollar and cause mischief in U.S. capital markets.

And of course, all those dollars can be used to buy tanks, missiles, combat aircraft, and other weapons that only further enhance these countries’ power. As others have noted, we are likely heading into a world of “resource wars” - a world for which America, right now, is woefully unprepared.

Tony Blankley is the author of “American Grit: What It Will Take to Survive and Win in the 21st Century” and vice president of the Edelman public-relations firm in Washington.

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