The clutches of foreign oil

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(Host) With fuel prices once again on the rise, commentator Bill Seamans reflects on America’s continuing dependence on foreign oil.

(Seamans) We have walked on the moon-even hit a golf ball up there. We have built a space station and a space shuttle bus. We have put on Mars a vehicle as big as a golf cart which is sending back color pictures and will scratch the surface for signs of water. Now President Bush wants to send astronauts to establish a base on the moon, and then send our space explorers from there on to Mars. That news was heralded by a cartoon showing an astronaut on Mars carrying a flag emblazoned with the word “Halliburton.”

Now if we can spend billions on all of the above why can’t President Bush make a truly historic contribution to our national security by freeing us up from the clutches of foreign oil? Bush has told us that he doesn’t read the newspapers. He said he finds out what’s happening outside his intellectual and security bubble in a morning briefing by Condi, Rummy and Dick.

I wonder if they read him the New York Times column last October in which Tom Friedman called for a “Manhattan Project” like the national-crisis-crash program that developed our Atomic Bomb – a “Manhattan Project” to produce a fuel that would free us from the political, economic and national security dependency on foreign oil. “That,” said Friedman, “would be a truly patriotic move.” Proponents argue that most of the basic research already has been done and that hydrogen is the most likely alternative fuel to drive our national engine.

So what’s holding Bush back from strengthening our national security by launching an emergency program to free us from foreign oil? Critics say money, money, money! They charge that corporate giants with billions invested in the Middle East petroleum industry – and auto makers with billions invested in a gas-guzzler economy – oppose a change. Those hybrid cars, they say, are a fig-leaf effort.

Thus our economy and national security remain hostage to the countries that control our foreign oil supplies. According to British intelligence, during the 1973 Arab oil embargo the U.S. was planning to send airborne troops to seize oil fields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi. Now we are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The longer that occupation costs American lives and treasure the pressure on Bush will increase. If his vision of the future contains a long view of our national security then Bush would do well to launch a crisis-driven “Manhattan Project” to produce an alernative fuel.

It’s an idea that is no less important than walking on the moon or color pictures from Mars.

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke to us from our studio in Norwich.

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