Thursday, June 9, 2011
The following was written Kellie Dunlap, who works as the Government Relations Coordinator at Pioneer Energy and has a master's degree in counter-terrorism and homeland security.
In the last decade, however, the elimination of key individuals within the terrorist network has left Al Qaeda on the defensive, forcing the remaining operatives into hiding and reducing their effectiveness. Furthermore, intelligence gathering and dissemination has improved tremendously since 9/11. Law enforcement officials have thwarted numerous attacks by radical individuals such as the cases involving Bryant Neal Vinas and Najibullah Zazi, two men who, on separate occasions, traveled from the United States to Pakistan, and underwent weapons and explosives training in Al-Qaeda's training camps, but were foiled by the FBI before they were able to carry out their missions.
Yet, while this is good news, it has opened up other security threats. According to Mario Mancuso, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Counter-Terrorism during the Bush administration, "my chief worry at the moment is the Saudi and Gulf oilfields." If terrorists were to attack and disable Saudi and Gulf oilfields, America would pay the highest price. Mancuso explains that such an attack would be logistically easier for terrorists to accomplish since the oilfields are in their backyard, and with America relying so heavily on oil exports, their attack would have long reaching effects in several markets.
In Osama bin Laden's 2004 videotaped address, he expressed Al Qaeda's "policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy." This "bleeding" would surely occur if Al-Qaeda were able to successfully wipe out an oil refinery, such as was attempted in 2006 on the Abqaiq oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia which handles nearly two-thirds of Saudi's oil output. Yet an attack would not necessarily have to completely take out an oil processing plant to strike a major blow at the United States. Any attack that inhibited or decreased the flow of the nearly 21 million barrels of oil the US imports every day for a prolonged period would cause economic damage. A sample of this economic damage has been previewed the last couple of months with the rise in oil prices from the turmoil occurring throughout the Middle East.
It is for this reason that the United States must not only protect itself from acts of terror against its citizens. The US must also find a way to decrease our reliance on the Middle East as a major exporter of our transportation fuel.
On May 3, a bipartisan group of leaders in the House of Representatives, led by Mr. John Shimkus, put forth a bill that seeks to employ existing domestic resources as transportation fuels. The bill is called the Open Fuels Standard Act (OFS), H.R. 1687. This initiative seeks to open the fuel market, so that alternative fuels including methanol, ethanol, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, and electricity can compete with gasoline. The real key here is methanol. Methanol which is known as wood alcohol, can be made from coal, natural gas, biomass and urban trash. The OFS requires that by 2017, 95% of vehicles sold in the U.S. must be either flexible fuel capable of using methanol, ethanol, or gasoline equally well, or has been warranted by the manufacturer to run on an alternative such as natural gas (CNG), electric, hybrid plug-in or biodiesel.
An open fuel standard would allow American motorists to choose their fuel source at the pump based on price and fuel source, rather than the current policy which forces drivers to pay astronomical prices at the pump which then go to fill the coffers of foreign governments, including several governments that are not our allies. By creating competition at the pump, OFS will constrain the price of oil, drastically cutting the ability of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) regimes to tax Americans.
It is only through divesting the Middle East of its power over the U.S. fuel market that we can hope to win the War on Terror. Military attacks against terrorist cells are important, of course, but it is of equal importance that the U.S. actively pursues its energy security with an effective energy policy. The American people should not be forced to spend increasing sums of money at the pump to support Middle Eastern governments and OPEC.
For further reading, see Achieving Energy Victory by Robert Zubrin.