ALARMED by the Persian Gulf war, some energy experts are urging the United States to cut its reliance on Middle East oil and to look for energy supplies closer to home.
The Western Hemisphere already has major oil exporters, like Venezuela and Mexico, and experts say that with foreign investment, those nations could substantially boost their output.
Colombia, Ecuador, Canada, Argentina, the US, and possibly Brazil could also increase hydrocarbon output to make this hemisphere self-sufficient in energy within a decade, experts say.
Robert Horton, chairman of the British Petroleum Company, says, "The more oil the US can procure from outside the Middle East, the easier you may feel."
Mr. Horton observes that the Middle East will probably remain unstable for many years. For security reasons, he says, the US should follow the rule: "If you cannot get all of your oil at home, then get it close to home."
Alan Stoga, managing director of Kissinger Associates Inc., a New York consulting firm, says: "This hemisphere could be self-sufficient over the course of the '90s. There is enough oil and gas in Venezuela, in Mexico, in Canada, in Argentina, and elsewhere that if you draw a big circle around the Americas, ... it could be energy self-sufficient."
Yet some analysts are skeptical. Former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, speaking at a recent energy conference sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said:
"It is unlikely that we are going to be able substantially to reduce the dependency of the United States and the industrial world on the Persian Gulf. And that means that the security of the Persian Gulf will for the foreseeable future remain a serious problem for us."
George Quincey Lumsden Jr., director of oil market developments for the International Energy Agency, wonders if reliance on regional supplies would distort the oil markets. If so, it could lead to higher prices and inefficiencies.
Oil industry sources say the US currently draws just over half its imports from four nations in the Americas - Venezuela (16.4 percent), Canada (12.8 percent), Mexico (10.7 percent), and Colombia (3 percent).
Overall, however, the Americas have an oil deficiency at current levels of production. Increasing the output of Venezuela, Mexico, and other nations will require significant investments from the industrialized nations.
International energy consultant Alfred Monk says a quiet trend is already underway to make …