The United States is the largest oil consumer in the world. Yet the American public has become keenly aware of the growing risks inherent in the unbridled consumption of fossil fuels -- economically, environmentally and in terms of national security. Further, they have come to understand the voracious and shameless opportunism of the oil producers to gouge the price of oil ever higher as long as they can and for as much as they can.
Among the leading miscreant producer nations is Chavez's Venezuela, not only in terms of being a rapacious oil supplier but in his confrontational and malignant policies toward the United States and the growing subjugation of his own people. To now threaten us with, "we will not send a drop of oil to the United States, even if we have to eat rocks", were hostilities to break out between Venezuela and Colombia should awaken us to the trump card we have never taken to the oil gaming table -- probably because our oil industry and lobbied interests precluded us from using it.
That trump card, the reality that we are the world's largest oil consumer and will be for years to come (the U.S. remains the world's largest consumer of oil by far consuming some 19 million barrels a day while China remains a distant second at some 9.2 million barrels/day), bestows on us an importance in the realm of buyer/seller equal to and exceeding the ability of any individual nation to supply us their oil. Therefore would it not make sense -- especially as our needs diminish and as other sources become available from alternative fuels and natural gas -- to limit imports from national origins that have policies that are inimical to our interests?
This could readily be accomplished by subjecting all imports of oil to import permits according to country of origin. By simply limiting or refusing import permits to those whose policies belligerently run counter to our national interests, we would, finally in matters oil, be instituting the normal relationship between buyer and seller, where the buyer calls the tune or at the very least can play his hand. These import permits need not be draconian, nor a hindrance to a free flow of goods. However when a Hugo Chavez's bellicosity goes one step too far we will at least have a tool of policy to make him aware that access to the American market can no longer be taken for granted.