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Hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs - Rising Oil Prices, Declining National Security?

Location: Washington, DC


REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R-FL): Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.

As always, thank you for holding this timely hearing, because it seems that every day the newscasts lead with yet another story on the skyrocketing cost of gasoline and other sources of energy, and there's much that we can do here at home, both in the area of conservation and in developing new sources of energy.

America has a tremendous innovative capability to produce more energy-efficient technologies. I'm a strong supporter of expanded investment in alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass and hydrogen fuel cell power, and earlier this year I voted in favor of domestic energy legislation to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and increase our use of clean-energy technologies.

But measures that we take here at home are only part of the solution; given that so much of our energy comes from abroad, our foreign policy must increasingly focus on ensuring a stable supply. An unfortunate fact is that many of the sources of imported oil are concentrated in areas ruled by autocracies, some of which are openly hostile to U.S. interests. Iran's ambition to dominate the Gulf and beyond is the greatest of the threats, but Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use energy as a tool for applying political pressure on other countries such as Ukraine and Georgia, and Venezuela's strongman, Hugo Chavez, is spending that country's oil wealth to promote an anti-U.S. agenda throughout Latin America, including undermining the government of neighboring Colombia.

In addition to the political uses of energy, it is the threat posed by artificial restrictions on its supply, especially the many attempts to create monopolies of one type or another. OPEC is, of course, the most prominent example, and its malign influence on the global economy has long been established, but there are others as well, including the new effort by several major natural gas-exporting countries to set up a similar cartel that has been termed as a gas OPEC.

When reports appeared that this plan was actively being considered by several of the major producers in an April 2007 meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, several of us warned the administration of the dangers of sitting back and allowing the creation of yet another global extortion racket.

To bring greater attention to this threat, I was joined by a bipartisan group of members in introducing House Resolution 500, which was passed unanimously by the House in July of last year. The bill classified the establishment of a gas OPEC as prejudicial to our nation's security. It called for the United States to work with our allies to prevent this gas cartel from coming into existence.

And at this year's annual meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, it was announced that considerable progress had been made toward setting up a gas cartel. Some experts have dismissed the idea of a cartel of natural gas due to the structure of the industry, but Hugo Chavez and Iran's Ahmadinejad disagree. They have repeatedly stated their strong support for the creation of a gas OPEC that they hope to use for the resulting leverage and political strategy purposes.

Another area of concern, Mr. Chairman, when discussing energy issues and national security is the expansion of nuclear power around the world and the risks that it will lay the foundation for the proliferation of the means to make nuclear weapons. The most troubling region in this is the Middle East, where several countries with troublesome issues involving Islamic militants and extremists have announced their intention to establish a nuclear power program.

This has been accompanied by an eager willingness on the part of nuclear-exporting countries to provide the necessary facilities, the technology and the know-how, and the most aggressive nuclear merchants are France and Russia.

Unfortunately, the United States has joined this rush. Just last weekend, the secretary of State and her Saudi counterpart announced an agreement to establish a nuclear cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia, which has the world's largest deposit of hydrocarbon and is home to violently anti-U.S. Islamic militants.

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency has stated that for these Middle Eastern states concerned about Iran, it's enough to buy yourself an insurance policy by developing a potential nuclear weapons capability and then sit on it.

So, at a minimum, the U.S. should not enter into any new agreements before there's been a thorough review of the potential consequences of this policy, and we must press countries eager to sell the range of nuclear facilities technologies and know-how to hold off.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to our testimony today. I appreciate it.


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