Latest News

Reducing U.S. dependency on Middle East oil easier said than done

WASHINGTON—President Bush set a goal Tuesday night of reducing dependence on Middle East oil by 75 percent before 2025.

Bush declared that the United States would lessen its dependence on foreign oil by replacing Middle East imports with alternative fuels such as ethanol made from corn. He also pledged to boost spending on research to develop cellulose-to-ethanol technology, which uses corn stalks and even switch grass to make ethanol.

In addition, Bush called for increased research spending to accelerate development of hydrogen-powered cars and better hybrid-fuel vehicles.

Such steps will "make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past," Bush said.

Experts questioned that.

"This is illusory to me. I don't think this means anything," said Frank Verrastro, an energy expert at the Center for Strategic International Studies, a conservative think tank in Washington.

Only about a quarter of the oil that the United States imports today comes directly from the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait together accounted for 2.1 million barrels per day of the 9.2 million barrels a day that the United States imported during the first 11 months of 2005.

Thus the United States would still crave foreign oil even if it somehow managed to stop importing any oil directly from the Middle East, Verrastro noted.

Besides, oil is a commodity freely traded on global markets. Bush offered no explanation for how oil importers would selectively stop buying Middle East oil.

"How do you get large-scale importers to preferentially focus on non-Middle East sources?" asked Ken Stern, an energy analyst for FTI Consulting in New York. "It seems to me that without an economic driving force, it's much more words than action."


(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Need to map