In his Op-Ed today in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman hits out at our energy dependency and our need to make ourselves environmentally green. His reasons are all sound and his argumentation persuasive, citing the danger of high oil prices and the need for a more effective and courageous energy policy at home.
Yet a vitally important issue is overlooked as is too often the case, namely the key policy distinctions attainable to crude oil on the one hand and gasoline on the other.
Crude oil is a commodity critical to our economic well being, but in today's world deeply wedded to issues of our national security. At Mr. Friedman's cited $60/bbl of oil (at today's postings it is actually five percent higher than that figure) the daily transfer of wealth to the OPEC cartel (eleven nations producing some 40 percent of the world's oil including Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc.) approaches $2 billion a day. This, to often corrupt and/or malign regimes some of whom spend large swaths of their oil income to finance schools, mosques and supposedly charitable institutions that actively promote the virulently anti-Western Wahhabi strain of Islam and the sinister dangers that it poses for us and all Western societies, while also financing Iran's manifest ambition toacquire nuclear weaponry. The high price of crude oil and the transfer of wealth it facilitates to dangerous governments presents an ominous and profound danger to our present national security let alone to the future of generations to come.
Gasoline presents a different set of national policy concerns. Too often environmental groups cheer high oil prices in that they correctly understand the price of oil is the largest component by far in determining the price of gasoline. High oil prices result in high gasoline prices resulting in diminished consumption of gasoline and in turn a purportedly cleaner environment. The policy issues that attain to gasoline are inherently at variance with those of crude oil. The price and availability of gasoline address economic and environmental concerns, while those of crude oil address economic issues as well but more profoundly those of national security. This is a highly important distinction not often delineated in national policy let alone in Mr. Friedman's Op-Ed.
Mr. Friedman should have made it clear that the time has come to push back the price of crude oil using all the tools in our possession, economic, political, etc. and wherever possible in joint cooperation with other nations equally impacted. We as a nation should determine the correct price of gasoline based on our national, economic and environmental goals, and not by a marketplace dominated by cartels. If the distinction is correctly drawn our goals, be they inherent to our national security, our economy, or our environment, can be coordinated with shared purpose to the nation's benefit.