How do we kick our addiction to oil?

We don't want to destroy oil, Jim Woolsey says, we just want to make it irrelevant.
  • Transcript


Question: How do we kick our addiction to oil?

Jim Woolsey: Detroit doesn’t produce oil.  (Laughter)  And the United States produces some oil certainly.  And we’re going to need oil for a long time.  But if we can get to a lot less oil than we have now, we can do something very important. I’ll give you one example.  Eddie … of the … a think tank in Washington that promotes working on energy for national security purposes, says that up until the late 19th, early 20th century, salt was a strategic commodity.  There was no other way to preserve meat.   Preserving meat was hugely important for the human diet, a huge share of the human food chain.  So people who had salt mines, and countries that had salt mines were really important.  Believe it or not countries fought wars over salt.  That changed with refrigeration.  Now we still use salt.  Probably we still use it some to preserve meat, but mainly we use it for flavoring in one thing or another.  Unless you were intimately familiar with Morton’s, you probably have no idea where it comes from.  You don’t care.  It’s bought and sold on a market.  It’s a commodity like a lot of other commodities.  But nobody is going to order you around because he’s got salt and you don’t.  Well we need to do that to oil.  We need to destroy not oil, but we need to destroy it as a strategic commodity so we don’t need it for transportation.  There are real competitors, and the competitor’s electricity, alternatives fuels, together in some combination can get the job done.  At that point oil becomes like lots of other commodities.  And by the way, it becomes much more operative in a free market.  Because what you have now is not a free market.  OPEC runs it – a cartel – and they are able to run it with Saudi Arabia leading it because it’s a strategic commodity and there’s no other way for most people, in most structures in the world, to propel their vehicles around except with petroleum derived fuels.  If we can end that so there are some competitors that are close to oils cost like cellulosic ethanol, and others like electricity that are much cheaper, people are still going to want oil.  It depends on how cheap it is whether they use oil or natural oil in the chemical plant, etc.  Fine.  We don’t want to destroy oil.  We want to do to it what refrigeration did to salt.