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MURDOCK: High price of Mideast oil

It’s time to end our needless dependency

- - Friday, September 14, 2012

America's economic well-being is at the mercy of the most thin-skinned hotheads on earth.

The tragic and outrageous assassination of American officials in Libya and the vicious attacks on U.S. embassies in (at this writing) Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen dramatize the enormous risk of depending on petroleum from a region where a film clip can trigger riots, bloodshed and fatalities. If this week's turmoil proves as communicable as the rapidly tarnishing Arab Spring, Islamic militants could hammer the Great Satan by sabotaging OPEC oil fields or simply encouraging their co-religionists to leave their petroleum-sector jobs and rail against Western "infidels." The mere potential of such a scenario introduces yet another element of uncertainty into a U.S. economy suffocating beneath question marks.

It would be dreadful enough if that Libyan mob murdered four American diplomats -- including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, an esteemed career envoy and former Peace Corps volunteer -- because U.S. bombers foolishly flattened the main mosque in Benghazi. If terrorists in Cairo invaded our embassy, ripped down the Stars and Stripes and ran an al Qaeda banner up the flagpole, it would be problematic enough even had the CIA accidentally unleashed a drone strike on a madrassa full of 10-year-olds.

Instead, as a New York Post headline explained Wednesday: "IT'S JUST A STUPID MOVIE!"

This mayhem stems from militant Islam's inability to withstand even a shockingly amateur, low-budget, borderline TV sketch of a "film" called "Innocence of Muslims." A disjointed 11-minute preview of this silliness hit YouTube, and deadly chaos erupted. Where it will end is anyone's guess, especially because this cinematic mess features a surferlike Muhammad expressing a smorgasbord of sexual appetites. In 2006, a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons of Muhammad -- many of them respectful -- unleashed global Islamic mayhem that killed at least 45 people.

Someday, Islam may develop a hide thick enough to bear the sorts of artistic depictions that Christians endure. Monty Python's 1979 picture "Life of Brian" generated huge laughs by satirizing Jesus Christ. While some Christians criticized or boycotted the film, they retaliated by killing exactly zero people.

Today's Broadway hit "The Book of Mormon" makes "The Life of Brian" resemble a College of Cardinals consistory. While Mormons may find this musical more blasphemous than hilarious (it is both, in spades) their reviews have not been homicidal.

Artist Chris Ofili infamously attached elephant dung to his painting of the Virgin Mary. Christians objected, and a believer named Dennis Heiner splattered white paint on the canvas. But neither Mr. Ofili nor anyone else was murdered for such infantilism.

So long as free speech remains a fundamental human right, free people can and should say what they will about Islam. Until that faith's most fervent adherents learn to count to 10 before commencing carnage, one objectionable YouTube video or bothersome charcoal sketch could sever America's vital supplies of petroleum.

Against this backdrop, the United States should end this dangerous game and move urgently to increase supplies of North American energy. We should capitalize on the vast hydrocarbon resources beneath our toes and under our oceans. With all deliberate speed, U.S. oil should be drilled, natural gas should be fracked, and the Keystone XL pipeline should be approved at once.

Henceforth, "foreign oil" should refer to petroleum from our calm, peaceful and relaxed neighbors in Canada, a NATO ally. Keystone will create about 20,000 private-sector jobs at no cost to exhausted American taxpayers. It should tell voters plenty that President Obama torpedoed a privately funded shovel-ready project that would decrease U.S. unemployment, increase American national security and redirect petrodollars from the Middle East to middle Edmonton, Alberta.

If Mr. Obama has changed his mind on these matters after this week's killings and chaos, he should lead the charge toward friendly oil. Otherwise -- perhaps by campaigning along the Keystone pipeline's proposed route -- Mitt Romney should champion this cause as boldly as possible between now and November.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University's Hoover Institution.