MEPC Examines Energy Influence in Mideast Policy

Article excerpt

The Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) held the 37th installment of its Capitol Hill Conference Series on U.S. Middle East policy on Sept. 1 at the Russell Senate Office Building. Congressional staffers, reporters, and other interested observers attended the panel discussion on "securing U.S. Energy in a Changing World."

Chas W. Freeman, MPEC president and conference moderator, opened the event by suggesting that "energy is in the center of U.S.-Arab relations." Citing the logic of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration, Freeman noted that Congress and the administration were "incredulous" to actually believe the claim that Iraqi oil sales would pay for the second Gulf war, initiated by the U.S. and the United Kingdom in March 2003.

The panel of speakers included Frank A. Verrastro, James A. Placke and Alan S. Hegburg. Verrastro, director and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies' (CSIS) Energy Program, said that, rather than delimiting the energy situation as one of American dependence upon foreign suppliers, there should be recognition of "energy interdependence." With 85 percent of all U.S. energy consumption coming from fossil fuels, he noted, previous attempts to become less reliant on "black gold" have not bridged the gap, although great strides have been made in increasing efficiency.

Of all energy consumed, approximately 38 percent is spent on electricity production and 18 percent on transportation. While much is made of a purported American dependence on Middle Eastern oil, in reality, Verrastro pointed out, three of the top four exporters of petroleum are in the Western Hemisphere: Canada, Mexico and Venezuela. …

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