Expert speaks about dangers of America’s oil addiction


America’s dependence on oil threatens national security and economic stability, according to an expert on energy sustainability.

The American Jewish Committee brought to St. Louis Dr. Gal Luft, executive director of the Institute for Analysis of Global Security, a Washington D.C.-based thinktank and co-founder of the Set America Free Coalition, an alliance of national security, environmental, labor and religious groups promoting ways to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

The AJCommittee invited Luft to speak in order to kick off an educational, political and awareness campaign about the issues surrounding energy sustainability and dependence on oil, according to Matt Coen, President of the AJCommittee St. Louis Chapter.

In the evening, Luft delivered the talk, “Setting America Free from its Oil Dependence,” at Washington University, which was open to the public.

The need to break free from oil dependence has serious ramifications for national geopolitical policy and strategic defense, he said.

“The fight against radical Islam, the spread of democracy, and the need to stop nuclear proliferation are all impacted by this one issue,” Luft said. Foreign policy is “constantly being undermined by the fact that the same regimes we are trying to combat thrive on the high oil prices.”

Many countries that have the oil resources we rely on for imports support interests that run contrary to our long-term international strategic interests, he said.

“Today, the United States finds itself in the position of financially supporting both itself and its enemies,” Luft said. “We can’t win the war on radical Islam so long as we are funding the other side.”

The United States consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil while possessing only 3 percent of world oil reserves, while the Muslim world depends on oil far less and possesses 75 percent of the world’s oil reserves, Luft said.

America’s oil dependence leaves policymakers struggling to balance America’s geopolitical strategy with our need to find dependable sources of oil, Luft said, which is a key reason the country needs to take a hard look at dramatically shifting our energy consumption, especially our overwhelming reliance on oil for transportation.

America needs to utilize technology that allows the use of domestically-produced fuel sources that can be used for transportation purposes, he said.

One key to changing the transportation market, particularly for consumer automobiles, Luft said, will be incorporating existing technologies to create cars that are essentially the same vehicles people drive today, only more efficient, or utilizing multiple energy sources.

He said that with existing technology, new hybrid vehicles could carry both an electric battery and a gas combustion engine. “The engine will run on gasoline only after a driver exceeds the capacity of the electric battery,” which last approximately 30 miles, he said. Luft noted that the average American drives approximately 25-30 miles a day. If other sources of fuel, such as ethanol, are used, oil dependence decreases even further.

In his opening remarks, Coen stated that the AJCommittee has been a longtime advocate of energy sustainability.

“AJC focuses on issues that make America great,” Coen said. “Energy is an issue that we identified 30 years ago, and the need to seek reliable, sustainable energy is never more true than it is today.”

Luft, who holds a Ph.D. in strategic studies from Johns Hopkins University, spoke at four engagements on Tuesday, Oct. 30.

At a breakfast meeting, the AJCommittee invited local business and political leaders to hear from Luft about energy sustainability. Later in the day, Luft spoke on 90.7 KWMU as a guest on the radio show St. Louis On the Air.