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Vail Daily column: Look to north for oil

What do the Saudis have on us? Why are we sucking up to an authoritarian regime? We are a secular democracy; they are an Islamic authoritarian monarchy. We value individual freedom; they lash bloggers. We blow off our frenemies the French in their hour of despair but drop everything and scurry over to Saudi Arabia when King Abdullah kicks the bucket. Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. John McCain, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and CIA Director John Brennan joined President Obama and scarf-less first lady Michelle Obama to pay their respects to the dead despot. The Obamas even cut short their state visit to India, the world’s largest democracy, to stop by Saudi Arabia.

This, amid recent claims by thwarted 9/11 terrorist and permanent resident of Florence, Colorado, Zacarias Moussaoui that members of the Saudi royal family were financial backers of al-Qaida. The 9/11 Commission contends there is no evidence of Saudi government funding for al-Qaida. However, Moussaoui insists his contact within the royal family was Prince Turki al-Faisal Al Saud, who introduced him to other family members, including former Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Maybe he is telling the truth, maybe not, but the nagging fact remains that 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens and now Moussaoui claims support came from the highest levels in Saudi Arabia.

What do the have on us? “Black gold, Texas tea … ” are synonyms for oil courtesy of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song. America is the world’s largest consumer of oil — nearly 20 million barrels a day. The European Union and China are a distant second and third respectively. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest producer. Russia and the United States round out the top three. Yes we produce a lot of oil, but only about half of what we consume.

For all you “drill baby drill” types consider that while we do have proven oil reserves, they are a fraction of what remains underneath the ground of the big producers such as Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Their proven oil reserves are staggering compared to the United States. However, there is another non-OPEC country with massive reserves — Canada. It is time to start showing the Canucks the respect they deserve.

Linking our two countries like an umbilical cord is the Keystone XL pipeline. Both the House and Senate approved the pipeline, President Obama vetoed it and now a veto override showdown looms. I grudgingly support it. Sure, I want wind and solar cars as much at the next tree hugger, but realistically, we are going to need oil for a long time to come. It is not just our go-juice, but it is also used to manufacture products such as fertilizer, detergents and cosmetics. I’ve got a monkey on my back called lip-gloss — its primary ingredient is petroleum jelly; don’t cut me off.

The pipeline is an environmental quandary. TransCanada altered the route to avoid the Sandhills wetlands in Nebraska and experts have weighed in on whether or not it poses a grave risk to the Ogallala Aquifer — most think it does not. That said, extracting oil from tar sands is very dirty. According to Bloomberg.com the Environmental Protection Agency informed the State Department on Feb. 3 that the crude oil transported by the Keystone pipeline could result in the release of more carbon than other sources of crude — as much as 27 million metric tons more. However, Bloomberg goes on to point out that those emissions represent half of one percent of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions annually. On the other hand, the oil has to come from somewhere. Currently that oil is shipped to the United States on oil tankers, spills from which are potentially environmentally devastating. Choose your poison.

The bottom line is, we need oil. With more energy efficient cars and expansion of renewable energy resources, our consumption may continue to decline. But make no mistake; we are going to need a lot of oil for the foreseeable future. I would rather purchase it from our nice-guy neighbors to the north than from dictators — which is just about every other country selling oil in any measurable amount.

Claire Noble is the author of “State-Sponsored Sex and Other Tales of International Misadventure.” She can be reached at claire@clairenoble.com or follow her on Twitter @thehkhousewife.


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