Why Reducing Middle Eastern Oil is Good US Foreign Policy

Joanna Schroeder

The renewable fuels industry is taking the opportunity to let the country know the value of domestically produced fuels. Last week, oil prices spiked to $100 per barrel amid fears that there may be oil flow disruptions due to political unrest in Egypt and surrounding regions. There is now speculation that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could relinquish power over the weekend and with that speculation are slightly lower crude oil prices. Experts believe that despite what transpires this weekend, prices will hold steady.

As higher oil prices translate to higher prices at the pump, T. Boone Pickens, along with others in the renewable energy field, have once again taken the opportunity to urge Congress and President Obama’s administration to pass comprehensive energy policy that will reduce the countries reliance on Middle Eastern oil. Pickens was out of the gate first with a statement last week.

“The question isn’t whether there will be more uncertainty in the Middle East. That’s a question of when not if. The greater question is whether our leadership is ready to solve this problem once and for all,” said Pickens. “I urge Congress and the Obama Administration to enact energy legislation now that gets America on our own resources. We have a tremendous supply of natural gas that can be used as a transportation fuel and is an immediate alternative to OPEC oil.”

Then earlier this week, Growth Energy’s Director of Public Affairs came out with a statement in response to some rumblings that ethanol was to blame for the rioting and upheaval in Cairo, Egypt and elsewhere. The link, ethanol opponents claim, is between wheat prices in the Middle East with demand for corn starch for ethanol in the U.S.

“These are people who want to play parlor games instead of looking at the facts and really finding out how markets work, or what’s motivating protesters in the Middle East. Seeing some of the distortions and pretzel logic these folks are going through, I’d encourage them to pick up Twister, instead,” said Thorne.

And today, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, former NATO Supreme Commander, and Co-Chairman of Growth Energy, responded to the threat of “contagion” in the Middle East.

Gen. Wesley Clark (Ret.) Talks about Egypt from Growth Energy on Vimeo.

As this strange logic begins to pick up momentum (proving that people will believe anything – ethanol causing unrest in Egypt?), it prompted Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO to write in the organization’s E-XChange blog, “One factor not having the kind of impact many claim is U.S. ethanol production. The use of grain in American ethanol production represents such a small fraction of global grain demand it is hard to imagine it is moving world prices and causing civil unrest in nations.”

He continued, “Of this near-record supply, U.S. ethanol production demand represents just 3 percent on a net basis. Equally noteworthy, that 3 percent is of a growing supply of grain as farmers in the U.S. and around the world continue to produce more. Even the most ardent ethanol detractors would have a hard time justifying how a 3 percent market share could be the driving factor for rising food prices, and ultimately, the riots in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere.”

Now, here is what our U.S. policymakers need to understand. According to John Hopkins professor and author Michael Mandelbaum, for decades, America has spent trillions of dollars defending oil in the Middle East, a tactic the country cannot continue to financially undertake. By reducing our dependence, if not eliminating our need for oil produced in the Middle East, we weaken that region’s power and as a result strengthen America’s power. And while Mandelbaum admits that it will take years of dedication to wean ourselves from this oil, he says it can be done and the oil can be replaced with domestically produced energy.

Now that’s what I call foreign policy.

Ethanol, International, Natural Gas, Opinion