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Global Warming Hearing on Oil Disruption

The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is currently holding a hearing, “Shock and Oil: Military Concerns Meet Consumer, Climate Crises.” The Committee hosts military and energy experts to examine how a major disruption in oil supply could affect the economy and America's national security. With near $100 oil and rising gasoline and heating oil costs, America is already teetering on the verge of a major economic crisis. Last week, several energy and military experts came together to hold a “war game” exercise on the geopolitical effects of an oil crisis, called “Oil Shockwave.” Testifying before the committee will be the former head of the EPA, Carol Browner, who was a participant in the oil war game, along with the former Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Dennis Blair, who observed the oil shock exercise and is involved in energy security issues.

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Chairman Ed Markey questions the witnesses:

Chairman Markey: “You talk in your testimony, Admiral, about our ever-growing military presence in the Middle East. Could you give us some sense of how you feel, for example, that this growing dependence on oil effects our relationship with Saudi Arabia?”
Admiral Blair: “I think it gives Saudi Arabia much greater leverage in their dealings with us, and there’s no secret that there are a lot of aspects of Saudi Arabia in the future that we have real concerns about. And when… a country with that sort of challeneges has that much of a thumb on you, it causes concern, so it’s not a whole lot more complicated than that…”

Extended transcript:

Chairman Markey: “You talk in your testimony, Admiral, about our ever-growing military presence in the Middle East. Could you give us some sense of how you feel, for example, that this growing dependence on oil effects our relationship with Saudi Arabia?”
Admiral Blair: “I think it gives Saudi Arabia much greater leverage in their dealings with us, and there’s no secret that there are a lot of aspects of Saudi Arabia in the future that we have real concerns about. And when… a country with that sort of challeneges has that much of a thumb on you, it causes concern, so it’s not a whole lot more complicated than that…”
Markey: “So the language that you each made reference to, the 35 miles per gallon by 2020, actually backs out the equivalent of all of the oil that we import from the Persian Gulf on a daily basis by the year 2020. How important is that, Admiral?”
Admiral Blair: “I think that would just put us in a lot better position to be able to deal in a more balanced manner with Saudi Arabia. I think it would have made the position of those people in the Shockwave much easier.”

Rep. Hilda Solis (CA-32) questions the witnesses:

Admiral Blair: “I draw a contrast between the way we deal with countries that really don't have our economic interests in their hand and those that do. And when I was a commander in the Pacific we could deal with countries in Southeast Asia, [such as] Indonesia, Malaysia, and other problem countries that we weren't completely dependent on the for oil supplies so we could be a little sophisticated in our dealing with them. We didn't have to turn to big, expensive, hair-trigger military options right off the bat. By way of contrast, when we deal with countries who are controlling important parts of the worlds oil supply we militarize our policy almost by default.”

Chairman Markey and the witnesses give their closing remarks:

Carol Browner: “I ask you to please pass this bill. This is a great, important moment in our history and I agree with the Admiral, it is a first step and there will be other steps we need to take. But it is an absolutely essential step. We need to get started. We need to get started on more fuel efficient cars. We need to get started on renewable electricity standards. And, Mr. Chairman, the leadership that you and the other members of this committee have brought to this debate is remarkable. And I feel like we're just sitting on the edge of something great beginning. There will be a lot more to do. Obviously greenhouse gas emissions [and] carbon are going to be important. But, if we could get this done, if we could say to the American people, 'our leaders want to do something, they want to work with you for a better future', it would be wonderful.”
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