Fareed Zakaria interviewed Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on his CNN show last weekend and wondered what Saudi Arabia, whom Zakaria referred to as “the central banker of oil,” could do about the rising price of a barrel of oil. “If you don’t have increased demand, if you don’t have reduced supply, why did the price go up 30–40 percent?” Zakaria asked. While bin Talal blamed rising oil prices on “fear” and “speculation,” the Saudi Prince made a surprising admission:
BIN TALAL: The stiff position of Saudi Arabia, we want the price to be between $70 and $80. Not only to help the West, but also to help ourselves. We don’t want the West to go and find alternatives, because, clearly, the higher the price oil goes, the more you have incentive to go and find alternatives. So, really, our interest coincides with American interest, to have the price for around $70, $80 which is a price good for consumers and producers.
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman has been talking about this concept for a while, arguing that a gasoline tax “would trigger a shift in buying and investment” in clean energy here in the U.S. — a move that would provide a foundation for a reinvigorated economy and reduce Americans’ dependence on oil, particularly from foreign sources.
But despite the fact that little is being done about it legislatively, the general consensus is that America’s dependence on oil also harms U.S. national security. “Bringing down consumption of imported oil is very much in the interest of national security,” noted retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton last month. And indeed, even the U.S. military is acknowledging this reality and taking action:
Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade.
“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Yet the Saudis have an obvious interest in keeping America — and the West — addicted to its oil supply. And luckily for them, their mouthpiece in the U.S. gets generous air time to make that case. And seeing that bin Talal is also one of Fox News’s largest shareholders, perhaps he’s rubbing off on some of the network’s most high profile employees. “I love that smell of emissions,” Sarah Palin said this weekend.