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
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
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
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
International energy consultant Alfred Monk says a quiet trend is
already underway to make the Americas a zone of "relative