PRESIDENT BARACK Obama has often stated that one of his highest priorities is to vanquish the "tyranny of oil" by developing alternative sources of energy and substantially reducing America's reliance on imported petroleum. But we will not be energy independent for the next thirty to forty years, even with a strong push to increase energy efficiency and spur the development of petroleum alternatives. During this time, America will remain dependent on oil derived from authoritarian regimes, weak states and nations in the midst of civil war.
Less and less crude will come from reliable suppliers in the Western Hemisphere. Given our continued dependence on imported oil, picking and choosing among our suppliers obviously would be ideal. But this is not an option. The oil market is thoroughly internationalized. Key traders draw on multiple sources of crude to satisfy the needs of refiners and retailers. Most importantly, a majority of the world's remaining oil is controlled by countries that are not democracies, do not honor the rule of law and are certainly not noted for their pristine human-rights behavior. If anything, our reliance on these producers is likely to grow as output in the older producing areas of the Western Hemisphere declines and more and more of the world's output is concentrated in Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union.