Monday, December 5, 2011
In January 2007 the National Defense Council Foundation (NDCF) calculated that the United States lost $117 billion in economic activity due to the cost of oil imports in 2006. It also reported that the cost of military expenditures related to securing foreign oil supplies was $137 billion in the same year.
NDCF estimated that as of 2007, U.S. dependence on foreign oil cost Americans 2,241,000 jobs. It concluded, “the total of all oil-related external or “hidden” costs [amounted to] $825 billion per year,” noting that these hidden costs equated to raising the cost of a gallon of gasoline to approximately $10.73.
If you find the thought of paying $4/gallon every time you fill up your vehicle distasteful, consider next time you’re standing at the pump that you may actually be paying something closer to $10/gallon. Now consider all of the out-of-work family members and friends you know who are affected by these hidden costs.
Financial hardship is a reality that many Americans are now experiencing firsthand. In contrast, national security concerns are far removed from the experience of most.
While Americans may feel an obligation to thank our troops for their service, how many clearly understand that since 2003 nearly 4,500 of them have been killed in a war to secure the world’s energy supplies from falling under the control of a ruthless dictator?
The Iraq War is the bloodiest episode of our nation’s involvement in the Middle East but it is by no means an anomaly. The history of U.S. interventions in the region, overt and covert, can be traced back at least 60 years. Energy security is the central concern around which U.S. Middle East policy revolves. And our history in that part of the world shapes our current relations with countries such as Iran, whose government appears to be playing the same deceptive game with WMD programs that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Although there is no overnight solution to these problems, Congress has the opportunity to address them over time by acting now. The Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011 is designed to strengthen our economy and national security by ending the oil industry’s monopoly over the transportation fuels market and stimulating investment in renewable fuels.
Ending that monopoly will save Americans money at the pump by allowing them to fill their vehicles with a variety of fuels that will have to compete with each other. Competition will create downward pressure on fuel prices and commodities transported across the country, including the food we purchase in our local supermarkets. It may also save American lives by reducing our dependence on one of the most dangerous parts of the world to meet our energy needs.
If you’re demoralized by the state of our economy and national security and want to be part of the solution, tell your elected representatives to co-sponsor the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011. Your country needs you to make your voice heard.
Thomas J. Buonomo is an Energy Policy Advocate for the Open Fuel Standard Coalition. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Middle East Studies from the U.S. Air Force Academy and has spent the past six years researching U.S. energy policy toward the Middle East.