WASHINGTON (CN) – In Senate testimony Tuesday, former President Jimmy Carter argued that the need for oil directs United States foreign policy. “The countries that supply us with oil are pretty certain we’re not going to isolate them,” Carter testified, “even though they are the biggest violators of human rights.” The nation has consistently avoided confronting its main oil suppliers, he added, “But we don’t admit it.”
Committee Chairman John Kerry agreed. “In Nigeria, massive oil revenues have fueled corruption and conflict,” he said. “In Venezuela, President Chavez has used oil subsidies to great effect to buy influence with neighbors. Sudan uses its energy supply to buy impunity from the global community for its abuses. Iran uses petrodollars to fund Hamas and Hezbollah and to insulate its nuclear activities from international pressure.”
Carter used the European Union as another example of nations held hostage by need for energy. The EU was cautious in condemning Russia after its invasion of Georgia, said Carter, because it is dependent on Russia for energy.
The 39th president Carter said he had been ready to use nuclear weapons against the USSR in order to protect the energy interests of the United States, had the Soviets continued after their invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to invade other countries in the region.
Members of the committee agreed that we must wean ourselves from oil, especially with the relatively new problems of global terror and global warming, which are so intertwined with black gold. But the problem isn’t simply a matter of foreign relations, they said. It’s also a matter of supply.
Kerry cited the International Energy Agency in saying that the world’s energy demand will jump 45 percent between 2006 and 2003, largely because of the development of China and India.
Carter said he prefers windmills, nuclear energy and clean coal as an alternative to oil-based energy.
When he visited Spain, he said, the windmills were both beautiful and had helped the country on its way towards obtaining half of its energy from renewable sources.
To promote nuclear energy, Carter described its almost infinite supply. The nuclear warship USS Jimmy Carter will never have to be refueled, he noted. The ship’s power plant will outlast the hull. As for nuclear waste, he said, “We can continue burying nuclear waste material for a long time. It doesn’t take much.”
Carter argued that coal is unlikely to disappear as a source of energy for practical reasons. The United States already uses mostly coal for energy. He said we need to develop a way to use it cleanly.
Before leaving, Carter imparted a bit of political advice. Only the president can bring about a real change in our energy policy, he said, and that change must be accomplished through one comprehensive bill so that everybody gets a little of what they want.
Carter expressed support for President Obama, saying, “I’m not preaching to him because he knows what he’s doing.”