The opponents of increased domestic drilling complain that it will take too many years before the oil it produces will get to market, and that it will make very little difference in the price of gasoline at the pump. Both arguments are totally without merit, as I have shown here, here and here. But let's forget all that for the moment.
Though high prices at the pump hurt us all, there's a much more compelling reason to ramp up domestic exploration, production and refining. It's the most important issue in the United States right now, and it has been since the birth of this nation. I'm talking about national security.Events in the former Soviet republics put it all in focus. Frank Gaffney has framed it in terms of the upcoming selection of America's 44th president:
First, the vulnerability associated with our dependence on foreign sources of oil - many of which are hostile - now arouses a substantial majority of Americans. As syndicated columnist Clifford May recently noted, a national poll by his Foundation for Defense of Democracies found that, “Depending on how the question was asked, between 57 and 64 percent say they believe that energy independence should be America’s primary goal - because our economic and national security depends on it.”
One particularly unreliable energy supplier is Russia, whose murderous aggression in the Caucasus nation of Georgia is not just about toppling a democratic government allied with the United States and the West. It is also designed to consolidate the Kremlin’s control over oil flows to Europe by seizing the one pipeline from the petroleum-rich Caspian not currently in its grasp or that of Islamofascist Iran.
Indeed, Russia seems determined to bully her way back into being a world power which must be reckoned with:
Increasingly the Russians have adopted a confrontational tone with the West, and they have backed it up with bullying of our allies. The Bush administration and other Western governments have tried their best to get along with Russia. That has been interpreted by Putin not as a sign of goodwill but as a sign of weakness. It is time to send a different message by making clear that Russia has crossed a red line in Georgia.
Russia seems determined to start a New Cold War -- a war that is all about oil:
It was appropriate that this struggle should flare to life in the Caucasus, because this region of bubbling ethnic tensions is really home to a battle not for ideology, but for oil.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, or BTC, is lauded as a miracle of modern engineering. Costing £2bn, it will eventually carry a million barrels of oil a day across more than a thousand miles of some of the world's most inhospitable terrain.
It is also the only pipeline linking Central Asia's vast oil and gas fields – second only to the Middle East's in size – to the West. All other pipes pass through Russia or Iran, putting western customers at the mercy of their regimes.
But for Putin, a former KGB colonel, and his hand-picked (some would say puppet) successor Dmitri Medvedev, the pipeline stands in the way of Russia's imperial ambitions.
"Russia has resented this break-up (of the old Soviet Union]," said former US defence secretary William Cohen. "They have been looking for an opportunity to wean people back."
Moscow has also torn up the old post-Cold War consensus whereby the war in Bosnia was brought to a negotiated end. In recent months, Russia, joined by China, has blocked UN attempts to halt the fighting in Darfur and impose an arms embargo on Zimbabwe.
Upping the ante still further, Russia has claimed the North Pole for itself by planting a flag four miles down on the seabed, and last week mooted setting up a bomber refuelling base in Cuba.
What can the United States do? Very little, without a secure and independent energy supply.
We can influence Moscow (and other restless aggressors) only by building our own nation's strength back to the point that our words alone mean something internationally. And our words alone then will mean something because they will not be completely alone; they will be backed by our real, usable strength. In large part, that is what our presidential election ought to be about: how to strengthen our blessed land -- with overawing military strength, a bountiful and independent energy supply, and a strong and prosperous free market.
A good beginning would be to develop an energy strategy as a part of out national security policy. This is not a new concept. Some have taken this approach all along:
The energy challenges our nation faces today are real and significant. Our dependence on foreign sources of oil threatens our national security and puts our economic prosperity at risk. America must rise to the challenge and take the steps necessary to become more energy independent before this becomes a crisis. No one solution will solve the energy challenges we face; all ideas must be on the table. Greater energy security will enhance our ability to pursue our foreign policy and national security objectives.
Drilling, of course, isn't all that we need to do to achieve enery independence, but it's a necessary part of the plan. We need to develop all of our energy resouces. Our armed forces are leading the way:
A 50-50 blend of JP-8 and a synthetic fuel derived from natural gas, was created by an Air Force research team and has been successfully tested on a B-52 Stratofortress. In March, a B-1B Lancer became the Air Force’s first aircraft to fly supersonic using synfuel. Plans are to certify every plane in the Air Force inventory for synfuel operation by 2011. The Federal Aviation Administration has honored the Air Force with its Excellence in Aviation Research Award for the work, which will spin off into the commercial aviation world and help offset global oil price and environmental concerns. But the Air Force’s No. 1 quest is to find a source of domestically produced, assured fuels which would allow it to perform its national defense mission if overseas petroleum sources were threatened. That’s smart thinking.
Only a strong America can stand up to threats from hostile and belligerent powers in the 21st century world. And we will not be strong if foreign powers with agendas of their own have the USA and our allies over an oil barrel. So if you aren't comfortable with the idea of domestic drilling to ease the financial burden on the average American, get comfortable with the reality that we must do it for the security of this nation.