In light of rising gas prices in the United States, Chairman Howard L. Berman (CA-28) today convened a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to examine the relationship between U.S. national security interests and the soaring cost of oil.
"Americans are literally paying for our country's reliance on imported oil," Berman said. "Global prices reached another record high yesterday and the cost at the pump is worsening. We meet today to examine a potential hidden cost: the impact of our country's oil addiction on our foreign policy and energy security."
Pointing out that there is increasing competition for the fossil fuels that drive global industry, transport, and economic growth, Berman noted that "many sources of fossil fuels are in parts of the world that are either unstable or politically unfriendly to the United States. The oil-producing countries that are not our friends can use the profits from our spending to undermine our foreign policy."
Committee members heard views on the subject from several witnesses, including David B. Sandalow, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at The Brookings Institution.
"The overwhelming dependence of the global transportation system on this one commodity creates national security threats we ignore at our peril," Sandalow observed, citing as an example the enrichment of oil-producing nations that oppose U.S. interests. Sandalow advocated the use of alternative energy sources and stepped-up efforts at conservation to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.
Anne Korin, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, pressed the same point and indicated that greater use of flex fuel vehicles -- which are capable of running on combinations of gasoline and other fuels -- creates fuel competition at the pump that tends to drive gas prices down.
In her testimony, Korin noted that ten years ago Osama bin Laden stated that his target price for oil is $144 a barrel - and that today's price on the world market is approaching that. She added, "I would like to impress upon this Committee that $144 a barrel oil will be perceived as a victory for the Jihadist movement and a reaffirmation that the economic warfare component of its campaign against the West is a resounding success."