There is strong public support for taking immediate action to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Our addiction to oil undermines national security and jeopardizes our economy and the environment.
Because our oil payments often wind up in the hands of hostile interests in Middle Eastern countries and Venezuela, experts surmise that we are in effect paying for both sides of the war on terrorism. After 9/11, former Clinton CIA Director Jim Woolsey testified before the Senate, saying, “The need to reduce radically our reliance on oil was not clear to many and in any case the path of doing so seemed a long and difficult one. Today both assumptions are being undermined by the risk of the post-9/11 world, by oil prices and by increased awareness of the vulnerability of the oil infrastructure and by technological progress in fuel efficiency and alternative fuels.”
To substantially reduce our dependence on oil, we must use technology. More than two-thirds of all petroleum used in the U.S. is for transportation. Without a major change in the way we fuel transportation, matters will only deteriorate.
I spoke at a Cascadia/Microsoft conference last June with Woolsey and others who demonstrated that one of the best approaches that was technically and economically feasible now was to move to flexible-fuel, plug-in electric cars.
Recently, along with Reps. Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, I asked President Bush to launch a new National Security Initiative by executive order:
“That would jump-start mass production flex-fuel, plug-in vehicles. Under your order, federal agencies would purchase an increasing percentage of new federal vehicles as flex-fuel, plug-in hybrid vehicles … .
“The federal government’s purchasing power would create a reliable market for manufacturers. It does not require mandates. Instead, the federal specifications would create a technically feasible standard that can be followed by manufacturers, eventually cutting unit costs to levels that even developing nations can afford.”
The president responded by granting this order Jan. 24. This is an important step, but we must do more.
I also support a Northwest Pilot Project that would integrate the plug-in hybrid vehicles with the power grid to harness unused electricity. Potentially, that would increase the grid’s productivity and lower overall energy costs.
Hybrid vehicles could be charged through regular electrical outlets (the plugs would allow charging only during off-peak hours when energy is cheaper). The vehicle could travel 40 miles on a charge and then switch to a fuel source such as ethanol — making a trip from Spokane to Seattle on a single tank of clean fuel possible.
Much of the innovation in renewable energy research is occurring in Washington state, but some of it will not be ready until further investment is made.
The world is as dangerous a place as it has ever been for the United States and its citizens. To strengthen the security of our nation and the safety of its citizens, we must decrease our dependence on foreign oil. Technology is the answer to our addiction and this project is realistic, technically and economically feasible now, as well as being one of the best approaches to significantly reducing demand for oil. The president needs to act now on our proposed initiative for the sake of our economy, our environment and our national security.