The Need To Act On Energy Security

By James M. Inhofe

America’s chronic dependence on foreign oil is not only an economic concern, but an important national security issue as well. It not only affects citizens and businesses nationwide, but also has a direct impact on our ability to fight and win wars.

As we engage in critical military operations in the war against terrorism, it is important to understand that our armed forces are highly dependent on foreign oil, much of which comes directly from the Middle East. Indeed, the fastest growing Middle East supplier of U.S. energy needs is none other than Iraq.

During the 1970s energy crisis, America was 36 percent dependent on foreign oil. Today we are 56 percent dependent and by 2010, we are headed for well over 60 percent. For the military, it now takes eight times as much oil to meet the needs of each U.S. soldier as it did during World War II. The Department of Defense today accounts for nearly 80 percent of all U.S. government energy use. Of that, nearly 75 percent is for jet fuel.

During the Persian Gulf War, our 582,000 soldiers consumed 450,000 barrels of petroleum products per day–four times the daily amount used by the 2 million Allied soldiers that liberated Europe from the Nazis in World War II. Legislation to seriously address energy policy is closer to approval now than it has been in many years. The President made it one of his top priorities for the year. In response, the House passed a comprehensive bipartisan energy bill in August.

There is simply no good reason for the Senate not to act. That is why I and others recently raised attention to this issue and urged the Senate leadership to commit to bringing an energy bill up for consideration this year. The President, the Secretary of Energy, and many others in both parties have also reiterated their strong support for prompt action on energy issues this year.Unfortunately, resistance is coming from those who oppose domestic energy production.

Opponents of oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), including many radicalized political activists, have spread fear about possible adverse environmental impacts. But their concerns do not withstand scrutiny. New technology, advances in drilling procedures, and heightened sensitivity to the environment, permit confidence in our ability to engage in energy production consistent with the needs of environmental protection.

ANWR opponents claim that energy bill supporters are merely exploiting the recent acts of terrorism to advance their agenda. In reality, energy security was a critical issue before September 11, and its significance is now only more apparent to more people. In light of our long-term military needs, it simply makes no sense to perpetuate our dependence on foreign oil and the vulnerability it clearly entails.Now is the right moment.

The President is calling for energy legislation as necessary to both economic stimulus and national security. The House has responded. Now the Senate must act, as members of both parties are joined together in support of a meaningful and comprehensive energy bill. Those who oppose such action are merely using September 11 as a thinly-veiled excuse for delay. Surely, we can do better than that.