Sunday, December 09, 2007

Energy Victory

Jamie Glazov | 11/21/2007
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Robert Zubrin, the president of Pioneer Astronautics and also president of the Mars Society. For many years he worked as a senior engineer for Lockheed Martin. In addition, he is the author of the critically acclaimed nonfiction books The Case for Mars, Entering Space, Mars on Earth; the science fiction novels The Holy Land and First Landing; and articles in Scientific American, The New Atlantis, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mechanical Engineering, and The American Enterprise. He has appeared on major media including CNN, CSPAN, the BBC, the Discovery Channel, NBC, ABC, and NPR. He is the author of the new book, Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil.

FP: Robert Zubrin, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Zubrin: Thank you for inviting me.

FP: What inspired you to write this book?

Zubrin: For the past two decades, I have devoted most of my engineering work towards advancing the space program. However the events of September 11, 2001 caused me to give pause and think about what I might be able to do to help out here on Earth. Then, as I researched the problem, it because very apparent that the terror cult was being promoted by Middle eastern tyrannies using oil money, which is to say our money, and that this is what had to be addressed if the war on terror was to be won.

You know there is an old aphorism, "there are three things necessary to wage war: money, money, and yet more money." Well, the same is true of jihad. So consider the following. In 1972, the USA paid out $4 billion for oil imports, an amount equal to 1.2% of our defense budget at that time. Last year, we paid $260 billion - which was half of what we paid for national defense! Over the same period, Saudi oil revenues have grown in direct parallel from $2.7 billion in 1972 to $200 billion in 2006, and this year are likely to exceed $300 billion. And if something isn't done to break the oil cartel, the situation is likely to get much worse, because with China and India industrializing, world demand for fuel is going up, and OPEC is in position to exploit this to effect further radical price hikes -- in fact they've raised prices 50% this year alone. We are financing a war against ourselves, and the way things are going, we will soon be paying the enemy more than we are paying our own military.

Furthermore, the situation is even worse, because as a result of our dependence on enemy oil, we cannot effectively strike back at them. Take the Iranian nuclear bomb program, for example. We could shut it down in an afternoon just by striking their very vulnerable oil export terminal at Kharg Island. No oil exports = no cash = no nuclear bomb program. But we can't do that right now because of the effect on the world economy of a shutdown of Persian Gulf oil. The same is true in our dealing with the Saudis. In effect, they are using their own fragility as a shield against us, saying "you can't hit us because we have a glass jaw." And, given our dependence on them, the ploy works. But take away that dependence, and we can dictate terms to them.

So the battle for energy security is the decisive front in the war on terror. And that is an area where I, as an engineer, believe I have something to contribute.

FP: Expand for us on how Americans are funding radical Islam by buying gas.

Zubrin: Saudi Arabia is the largest recipient of international oil revenues, over two trillion dollars in the past three decades, and, as documented by numerous sources cited in my book, they have used a substantial fraction of this cash to finance a global effort to spread Wahhabi totalitarian cult ideology. They have funded a whole alphabet soup of front organizations such as the MWL, the WAMY, and the IIRO, for this purpose, as well as to directly fund terrorist groups, and have set up over 20,000 madrasses outside of Saudi Arabia to teach millions of young boys that the way to paradise is to kill Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, animists, humanists, etc. It was the graduates of this indoctrination effort who killed 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, and thousands of our troops in Iraq in the period since. But they've killed plenty of other people too, in countries ranging from Biafra and the Sudan, to former Soviet central Asia, to Indonesia and the Philippines, where vicious attacks on Buddhists and Christians are ongoing.

Then there is Iran, a terror state which receives the majority of its income from oil. It is oil money that is funding Hezbollah, an Iranian terror asset which is now setting up bases in Latin America, by the way. It is oil money that is funding the Iranian nuclear bomb program, which could give those Hezbollah operatives the weapon they need to inflict mass destruction on their potential victims- which will soon include not only Israeli or European cities, but targets in the Western Hemisphere as well.

When we pay for oil, we are paying for our own destruction.

FP: So how can we reduce U.S. dependence on oil? Is it really possible to make oil obsolete? Tell us exactly what energy security entails and how it serves as a potential cure to our dilemma.

Zubrin: The key thing is to break the oil cartel, which is the instrument that the enemy has used to fix prices and fabulously multiply their profits, and thus their power. This cannot be done through US conservation, for two reasons; first because with demand growing elsewhere, no conceivable conservation effort here could effect the global oil price. Secondly, even if we could hypothetically somehow create global conservation, the OPEC could deal with it simply by cutting production to match.

However there is a way to break OPEC, and it is surprisingly simple. What is needed is for the US congress to pass a law mandating that all new cars SOLD (not made, but sold) in the USA be flex fueled -- which is to say able to run on any combination of alcohol or gasoline fuel. These cars are existing technology -- in fact about 24 different models of flex fuel cars are being produced by the Detroit big three this year, and they only cost about $100 more than the same car in a gasoline-only version. But they only command about 3% of the new car market, because there is little upside to a consumer in owning one, since alcohol fuel pumps (such as E85, a fuel mix that is 85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) are nearly are rare as unicorns. And the reason, of course, why E85 pumps are not to be found is that gas station owners don't want to dedicate one of their pumps to a kind of fuel that only a few percent of the cars can use. But if we had a flex fuel mandate, then within three years of enactment there would be 50 million cars on the road in the USA capable of running on high-alcohol fuels, and under those conditions, E85 and M50 (a 50% methanol, 50% gasoline fuel mix -- flex fuel cars can use any alcohol, including methanol) pumps would start appearing everywhere.

But most importantly, this would not just be happening here in the USA, but worldwide, since by mandating that all new cars sold here had to be flex fuelled, we would be forcing all the foreign car manufacturers to switch their lines to flex fuel as well, effectively making flex fuel the international standard. So not only would there 50 million cars in the USA within 3 years capable of running on alcohol, there would be hundreds of millions worldwide, forcing gasoline to compete everywhere against alcohol fuels that can be produced from numerous sources. This would effectively break the vertical monopoly that the oil cartel currently holds on the world's fuel supply, constraining prices to the ~$50/barrel range, because that is where alcohol fuels become competitive. It would also create a market that would mobilize tens of billions of dollars of private investment into areas such as cellulosic ethanol and other advanced alcohol production techniques that will cheapen alcohols further and radically expand their potential resource base (although methanol already can be produced from any kind of biomass, without exception, as well as coal, natural gas, and urban trash.)

Then, with such a production and distribution infrastructure in place, we could proceed to not merely contain the petrotyrranies, but wipe them out by implementing tax and tariff policies that favor alcohols over petroleum. Effectively we could take over a trillion dollars a year that is now going to the oil cartel, and direct it towards the world agricultural sector instead. This would not only be of great benefit to farmers here, but an enormous boon to the third world, which otherwise faces brutal looting through the extremely regressive tax imposed on them by continued unconstrained OPEC price hikes. Thus there is not just a strategic and economic case for breaking OPEC, but a very strong humanitarian case as well. Instead of financing terrorism, we could be funding world development. Instead of selling blocks of CNN to Saudi princes, we could be selling tractors to Africa. This is the way to win the war on terror.

FP: Robert Zubrin, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

Zubrin: It's been a pleasure, and an honor. Keep up the great work.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at

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