April 18, 2007 - Geopolitical Implications of Rising Oil Dependence and Global Warming

Opening Statement for Edward J. Markey (D-MA) at Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming hearing on the
“Geopolitical Implications of Rising Oil Dependence and Global Warming”

This hearing is called to order.

Thank you all for being with us for this, the inaugural hearing of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Today’s witnesses have been invited because they have spent their lives thinking about what must be done to defend our planet, and how the twin imperatives of defending our environment and defending our freedom have begun to merge into single issue. This committee has been given an awesome charge -- to press the institutions of Democracy to change business as usual in an overdue effort to respond to the twin challenges of our dependence on imported oil and the looming catastrophe of global warming.  These problems are intertwined, and our hearing today is intended to highlight the fact that just as the oil security problem has a major global warming dimension, climate change has a major global security dimension.  If we are to address either problem effectively, we must make sure we don’t make one problem better by making the other worse.

It seems clear that our geopolitical and national security posture will only grow worse if we do not act forcefully to curb our dangerous dependence on imported oil and reduce our emissions of global warming pollution. It is a double-threat, like Orthus, the monstrous two headed hound of Greek mythology, with one head facing backwards and the other forwards.  Our ever-rising oil dependence is directly attributable to a backwards-facing energy policy, while looking forward we can see the threat of rising temperatures and the subsequent increasing risk of natural and humanitarian disasters. We have become all too familiar with the volatility in gasoline prices that occurs as a result of domestic or foreign events – be it the capture of British sailors by Iran, or the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina.  Gas prices have jumped up early this year, well before the summer driving season, and are now over $3.00 a gallon for regular at many stations, reflecting once again the insecurity and, indeed, sheer folly of tethering our economic well-being to unstable foreign sources of oil governed by regimes which are, in some cases, supporters of or participants in the War on Terror.

45 percent of the world’s oil is located in Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Events in those countries have a dramatic impact on oil prices and on our national security.  In the late 1970s, the Oil Embargo, Iranian Revolution and Iran/Iraq war sent the price of oil skyrocketing.  And today, with Osama Bin Laden urging his followers to attack Saudi Arabian oil, with Iraq descending further into chaos, and with Iran marching further down the path towards developing nuclear weapons, we are seeing the very same sort of pain at the pump – because of the very same sort of global instability.  In an article in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend, Thomas Friedman stated that “Soaring oil prices are poisoning the international system by strengthening antidemocratic regimes around the globe.”

It is no coincidence that we have 130,000 young men and women in Iraq right now, with at least another 25,000 on the way.  It is no coincidence that we are spending more than $100 billion dollars a year to keep those troops there, in addition to the nearly $300 billion dollars we spend each year importing all the oil we use in the first place. Much of these funds end up in the pockets of Arab princes and potentates - who then funnel the money to Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups.  

Our energy policy has compromised our economic freedom, and the American people want action because they know that the price has become much too high.

We know we cannot simply drill our way to energy independence. The United States is home to less than 3% of the world’s oil reserves – but is itself the world’s largest consumer and importer of oil.  Last year, oil imports reached 60% - an average of 12.5 million barrels per day amounting to an annual cost of 291 billion dollars.

While moving to renewable fuels that are grown in the soil of the Midwest rather than removed from the sands of the Middle East can help, the single biggest step we can take TODAY to curb our oil dependence and remove OPEC’s leverage is to raise the fuel economy standards of our automotive fleet.  

I have introduced a bill, H.R. 1506, which would require the combined car and light truck fleet to achieve 35 miles per gallon by 2018, which amounts to an average 4% a year improvement – an increase that is MANDATORY over this first 10 years. By ensuring that fuel economy standards keep pace with technological or other developments, we will move to a more and more efficient fleet over time instead of replicating the fuel economy stagnation of the past 2 decades.  

By 2022, this bill would bill backs out the equivalent of every drop of oil that we currently import from the Persian Gulf, and by 2030, as the fleet becomes more fuel efficient, it backs out almost 40% of our projected highway oil needs.  It also reduces global warming pollution from the transportation sector a similar amount. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses this morning about the role they believe stronger fuel economy standards should play in addressing our oil dependency and reducing global warming pollution.

From the most recent scientific evidence, it is clear we must act now to address the threat that carbon emissions from cars and other sources poses to the environment.

At the beginning of February, the world’s top scientists, as part of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), provided a scientific smoking gun that human activities were unequivocally responsible for global warming. Two weeks ago, their second report told us what happens when the climatic bullet hits. The developing world will bear the brunt of the collateral damage from our historic global warming emissions, but the United States will experience its own self-inflicted wounds, including threats to our national security and military readiness.

Today we will hear the first Congressional testimony on this critical issue.

Generals and Admirals who have spent a lifetime on battlefields are telling us that global warming is a major strategic weakness. So today I am introducing the “Global Climate Change Security Oversight Act” which authorizes a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) to assess the security implications of global warming to the United States and its military.  My bill, the House companion to legislation already introduced by Senator Durbin and Senator Hagel, will provide a crucial planning and risk-assessment tool as the Congress seeks innovative solutions to global warming.  Developed to assess the most serious threats to the United States, NIEs are the most authoritative intelligence judgments concerning national security issues. This legislation will also fund research by the Defense Department into the consequences for U.S. military operations posed by global warming.

But U.S. military leaders are not the only ones concerned about the security implications of global warming, yesterday the UN Security Council held a historic debate on energy, climate and security. Representatives of 55 countries discussed global warming’s implications for peace and security around the world.

Hercules eventually vanquished the two-headed Orthus, and as we will hear today, we have the tools, the technology and know-how to accomplish our own Herculean task of overcoming both oil dependence and global warming pollution.

I am now pleased to recognize our witnesses for opening statements.  General Gordon Sullivan, you may proceed.