Former CIA Director: Fixing the U.S. Energy Strategy (Op-Ed)

Daniel Turner, Climate Nexus
July 30, 2013

Daniel Turner, multimedia producer for Climate Nexus, covers climate-related discussions and events in the Washington, D.C., area. The following video and article are adapted from a July 8 presentation by ambassador R. James Woolsey entitled, "How Does Our Need For Foreign Energy Resources Impact Our National Security?." Turner contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Though he left his director's post in 1995, former CIA director and ambassador R. James Woolsey remains very much in tune with the current problems — and potential solutions — that exist in the global energy market. In a recent discussion hosted by Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, Woolsey explored some of these issues and how they affect U.S. energy production and national security.

His most prominent argument: When it comes to reducing dependence on foreign oil, we've been focusing on the wrong solutions. "The location [of imported oil] isn't the main point. The main point is the price," Woolsey noted, emphasizing that the global market limits the impact the United States has when it decides from which countries it will purchase oil. For example, if the United States buys more oil from Canada and less from Venezuela, other countries will respond by buying less oil from Canada and more from Venezuela. [Reliance On Foreign Oil Can Cost U.S. Lives, Panel Says]

The key to reducing the political and economic clout of questionable fuel-vending nations is to reduce overall demand — and, thus, the market price and profits — for oil. While we can't take millions of conventional-fuel vehicles out of the U.S. fleet overnight, there may be cheap and effective ways to accelerate the use of alternative fuels and increase energy independence.

In particular, Woolsey believes in the potential for a market for ethanol and methanol derived from U.S. natural gas. With the current price of natural gas sitting around one-fifth that of oil, developing methanol-based fuels to add them as a choice at the pump could potentially take enough demand away from oil to drive prices down to $60 per barrel or less. With current prices hovering at more than $100 per barrel, those actions wouldn't just increase the energy independence and national security of the United States, but also would put quite a bit of money back into Americans' wallets.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on LiveScience.com .

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