THE savagery of Sept. 11 confirmed that both Mideast oil
dependence and fragile infrastructure threaten national security.
Replacing Mideast oil is vital, but not by substituting equally or
more vulnerable domestic sources.
Domestic energy systems aren't secure unless they're designed to
make large-scale failures impossible and local failures benign.
Today the opposite is true: The United States' extraordinarily
concentrated energy flows invite and reward devastating attack.
Two decades ago, two of us authored and one wrote the foreword to
a Pentagon study called Brittle Power: Energy Strategy for National
Security. It found - and little has changed since - that a handful
of people could shut down three-quarters of the oil and gas supplies
to the Eastern states (without leaving Louisiana), cut the power to
any major city, or kill millions by crashing an airliner into a
nuclear power plant. Expanding centralized and vulnerable energy
systems didn't protect national security then, and it won't now.
Energy security starts with using less energy far more
efficiently to do the same tasks. The next step is to obtain more
energy from sources that are inherently invulnerable because they're
dispersed, diverse, and increasingly renewable. Meanwhile, we must
not increase reliance on existing vulnerable systems. This strategy
doesn't cost more; indeed, it's already winning in the marketplace.
Oil fuels 97 percent of US mobility. Relying for 13 percent of US
oil supply on the pathological predators and vulnerable autocrats of
the Mideast - home of at least two-thirds of the world's reserves -
is a tragedy waiting to happen. We need not just another crude-oil
source, but also an inherently secure supply chain delivering useful
transportation fuels all the way to customers - then using those
fuels productively so we need less. Alternatives can supply a bigger
share, and stockpiles last longer.
EFFICIENCY is the first and cheapest rapid-deployment energy
resource. In 2000, America used 40 percent less energy and 49
percent less oil to produce each dollar of GDP than in 1975. Those
savings are now the nation's largest "source" - five times domestic
oil output. Most were achieved in just six years, from 1979 to 1985,
when gross domestic product grew 16 percent, total oil use fell 15
percent, and Gulf imports fell 87 percent.
Modern efficiency technologies can put another $300 billion a
year back into Americans' pockets. Just a 2.7-m.p.g. better light-
vehicle fleet could save as much petroleum as we import from the
Saving oil is the fastest way to blunt OPEC's market power, beat
down prices, and expand invulnerable sources' share of energy
supply. Billions of dollars in annual military fuel-saving
opportunities just found by the Defense Science Board would also let
US armed forces fight more effectively far from home.
New ways to supply fuel from renewable sources can be secure,
fast, and competitive. Urban, industrial, farm, and forest wastes
and soil-replenishing crops, such as prairie grass, can yield clean
transportation fuels, electricity, fertilizer, and substitutes for