Verbatim, as delivered

Remarks of Chairman Tom Lantos at Hearing, “Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Oil Dependence”

The United States is gorging itself on oil from overseas, a diet that is both unsustainable and unhealthy – and it seriously weakens our nation.


With five percent of the world’s population, we are using fully one quarter of the oil consumed on this planet. Worse yet, the bulk of the stuff is under the soil of hostile or despotic states, and to get hold of it we are making compromises that undermine our foreign policy.

Any way you slice global oil production along political lines, the picture is bleak:

The non-profit, non-partisan NGO Freedom House reports that over half of the world’s oil-rich countries are not democratic.

Six of the top ten oil-exporting countries to the United States rank at the bottom third of the world’s list of most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International.

And more than 70% of the global oil reserves are controlled by countries with which the United States has tenuous and troubled relations, such as Venezuela, Russia and Saudi Arabia.


These are the people we cut deals with to satisfy our thirst for oil. Our insatiable quest for more and more of it has got to come to an end. It is a matter not only of financial stability and environmental imperative, but it also goes to the core of our national security policy.

Take, for instance, our ties with Saudi Arabia. If it were not for U.S. intervention in 1991, the House of Saud would be a nothing more than villa on the Riviera by now. And because of its petroleum wealth, it continues to enjoy unwarranted indulgence where U.S. interests are concerned.

Blessed with the world’s largest proven oil reserves, and riding on a close relationship between Washington and Riyadh going back some 60 years, Saudi Arabia received a free pass when it was identified as the home of 15 out of the 19 hijackers on 9-11. And it has bristled at subsequent suggestions by the United States that it has taken inadequate action against the private financing of terrorist activity within its borders. But since a steady supply of oil and a stable regime of whatever nature in Riyadh are key to our country’s actions in the Middle East, our government does next to nothing to pursue these matters.

Consider, too, the latitude we grant to Russia, the second-largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia, with increasing amounts of that output coming to the United States. The Administration talks a great game about spreading democracy and promoting human rights abroad, yet refuses to pressure Moscow to reverse its brutal crackdown on political dissent. Is it because we have a financial stake in the reliability of the Russian oil supply, and its guarantee by the state? As long as Russia uses its energy sector as a foreign policy instrument, it will continue to enjoy the upper hand.

It is important to note that even if the United States completely switched to some other energy source tomorrow and no longer imported a drop of oil, we would remain vulnerable to oil-related disruptions in the rest of the world. This is because other countries, large and small, are also hooked on petroleum.

China is the second largest consumer of oil after the United States, and its oil consumption is expected to increase from 8 percent of world demand today to 13 percent by the year 2030.  To feed its growing energy needs, China scouts the globe for sources of oil, and has come to rely increasingly on supplies from Africa – including Sudan. Is it any wonder that China has been a stubborn impediment to international efforts to pressure Khartoum into bringing its genocide in Darfur to an end?

Similarly, as we seek to galvanize international public opinion and to mobilize diplomacy to put an end to Iran’s quest for nuclear arms, we are once again handicapped by the world’s dependence on oil. Iran continues cut lucrative deals with other countries involving its energy sector, which directly benefits Teheran’s quest for nuclear weapons. It is able to do so because the European Union and others are reluctant to compromise their steady oil supply in favor of international nonproliferation goals. They are willing to flirt with the threat of nuclear disaster to keep the oil flowing.

Creating viable and renewable energy alternatives to oil is clearly a matter not only of U.S. foreign policy interest, but also a matter of global security.

Unfortunately, it took five years for the current administration suddenly to wake up to the fact that the United States is “addicted to oil,” as President Bush announced last year. A new office to coordinate international energy priorities was only just created. I am glad that the Administration finally has acknowledged our energy insecurity, but the rhetoric must be followed by decisive action.

We need to continue to press for higher CAFÉ standards, so that the vast majority of vehicles in the United States will be more fuel-efficient.

We have to put real resources into research and development of alternative fuel sources, with the aim to replace petroleum altogether.

And we must immediately step up national efforts at energy conservation, which is an immediate and effective way to way to wean ourselves away from oil and gas.

It is clear that the United States cannot be completely energy independent. But the goal of reducing our energy dependence is within our reach, and stabilizing the supply of energy is and should remain a key component of United States national security. Our energy and foreign policies are inextricably bound.

I’m now delighted turn to my friend and colleague from Florida, the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.