"We Need to Make Oil Boring"

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James Woolsey is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who advised Republican presidential candidate John McCain on energy issues during the 2008 campaign. In this interview, he tells Susan McGinnis how ending America's oil dependence can help not only the United States, but current oil producing states as well. Woolsey says if the U.S. were less dependent on foreign oil, it would benefit oil states because people who live there would need to "learn how to work." They currently rely on a lot of foreign labor to produce the oil, while earning income from that production. He says those countries could also develop more broad-based economies and eventually develop governments that are different than the autocratic states that now exist in the Persian Gulf, Venezuela and Russia. He says Saudi Arabia still leads the world in oil production because it has a plentiful supply and it its relatively easy to produce. The United States, by comparison, can't produce oil so easily or cheaply, and the U.S. can't compete. Comparing Saudi Arabia and Israel, Woolsey notes that Israel has an economy that employs a larger number of people, academic institutions that encourage learning, rather than the recitation of religious documents and an educated female workforce. Those changes could come to oil states if the U.S. takes the lead in developing energy independence. The key, he says, is breaking oil's monopoly over transportation. Just replacing foreign oil with American oil won't work. He says the the country needs to develop transportation that does not rely on oil. He compares the situation to disputes over salt mines at the end of the 19th century, when salt was prized as a meat preservative. The advent of electricity and refrigeration changed all that, and salt is no longer a commodity worth fighting for. Woolsey believes the same thing can happen with oil if the U.S. enacts the right policies.

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