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Thursday, September 12, 2002

Cut Reliance On Mideast Oil

SENATOR BURNS: Thank you Mr. Aubothon, members of the National Press Club, Ambassadors, Congressman Weldon and fellow Americans:

One year ago today, America awoke to a nightmare of death and destruction unseen in our Nation's history. Today, while the architects of that evil have been vanquished or are on the run, America remains confronted by a dependency on rogue oil.

We have seen this threat in the payoffs to suicide bombers from Saddam Hussein, a man who has violated the terms of a cease-fire from a war he lost almost 10 years ago.

We have seen this threat in countries that would wield a natural resource as a weapon, to cause harm to our economy.

We have seen the radicals amid the mainstream, celebrating in the streets the day our great Nation was attacked.

We should see the danger that lies in buying up to a quarter of our imported oil from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. But we do not.

We should see the dangers of paying billions of dollars to a man committed to amassing weapons of mass destruction. But we do not.

We should see and understand that every time America buys a barrel of rogue oil we are in part funding unseen radicals. But we do not.

And we should see that our national security is at risk, our foreign policy is shackled, and our diplomatic credibility in the Middle East undermined, so long as we buy from regimes that deny democracy and freedom.

America should not allow these regimes to maintain such a strong influence over our economy. But we do.

We allow Syria to smuggle over 100,000 barrels of oil per day from Saddam Hussein.

We allow ourselves to believe that the world cannot diminish its dependence on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, convinced this country holds the copyright on a commodity. But make no mistake - it does not.

Our unique place in the world demands we demonstrate our leadership.

How can we stop inadvertently financing global terrorism?

Can we use our domestic resources more wisely?

Can we diversify our energy sources to increase national security?

Yes, we can.

What has America done?

America has shut down exploration on millions of acres of American land rich in oil and gas. And Congress has banished development in a frozen corner of Alaska that holds the equivalent of 55 years worth of Iraqi imports.

What has America done?

Last year we sent $4 billion to Saddam Hussein in oil money. Some of our allies call it Oil-for-Food. But I say we call it what it is: Oil-for-Terror.

Our Nation has come to a crossroads. We are confronted by Action and Inaction. Will we stay the course or remake our destiny?

So today I ask a this question, one that should dictate American energy policy for the 21st century: Why are we importing oil from countries that are exporting lethal terrorism by groups who hate our freedoms and despise our way of life?

The United States has indeed changed. We have felt the embrace of our friends in our time of need. And we have felt anger when a jihad was declared on our soil, our institutions, our economy, and our very daily bread - freedom itself.

We have seen religion perverted by extremists whose designs for the world end only in annihilation. Islam was also a victim of September 11. Fanatics, spewing evil and hatred, hijacked a religion of peace. Good nations saw the bad within. Allies of America in the Middle East have uncovered some of these fanatics and brought them to justice.

There is no one birthplace for terrorism, but there are places where extreme ideologies flourish. In Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabi clerics have a strangle-hold on freedom.

The institutions of Church and State are one entity.

Women live as third-class citizens.

Textbooks teach hatred and disdain for the United States.

Young men genuflect to jihad as they are indoctrinated into a bastardized religion of terror.

The result is the absence of democracy. The result is that 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers were from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

But this is a place where America does big business.

It is time we seek out new partnerships.

It is time we find new sources of production.

It is time we turn America's imagination, technology, and ingenuity loose.

America, it is time we turn off the spigots of terrorist oil.

This requires bold leadership to redefine the National priority.

We can redefine this National priority two ways: new overseas production and new domestic production.

These are ambitious goals, but not impossible. Consider the contributions of my home State of Montana. Fuel cell research is underway at our universities. This will yield new ways to power our homes and cars. New technologies can turn Montana's abundant agricultural crops into alternative fuels.

With the power of people and ideas there is the power to change. Montana possesses the Nation's largest supply of clean coal. We possess vast reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

It is critical we know where our reserves are located. If Montana has so much potential, think about our potential as a Nation.

The Bush Administration has granted more federal research for transportation fuel cells. The auto industry has started to turn out hybrid cars and cars powered by fuel cells.

America has taken great strides towards conservation in the last 25 years. America's consumption of oil has remained steady since 1973, at roughly 19 million barrels per day. But during that same time GDP doubled. Regrettably, our Nation has allowed our foreign oil imports to double as well.

Imagine what new technology will accomplish in the future. No doubt, these new technologies will one day take us beyond fossil fuels, but that day is not tomorrow. We must continue to push ahead with more research dollars for science and technology. In the meantime, America must tap new sources of imports if we are to wean this Nation off rogue oil.

America is blessed with a wealth of natural resources. But we have declared much of those resources off limits. In the land of plenitude, we have turned excess into scarcity.

For example: There is a moratorium on new offshore oil and gas development along the entire east coast of the United States, while America purchases Canadian gas pulled from wells off the coast Nova Scotia.

That makes no sense.

America must find ways to meet energy production and demand in responsible ways - not to limit it for limitation's sake.

Present policies tell us to ban domestic exploration, allowing domestic production to further decline.

Present policies tell us to maintain the status quo in the Middle East.

And some might question why we should pursue new ventures with old enemies.

Indeed, this axis of inaction is our greatest enemy. It is inaction itself we must resolve to defeat today. We cannot simply sit back and send billions to Saddam Hussein and billions more to countries that preach hatred at their pulpits.

America must act now to harness its true energy potential. Our economic growth did not spawn from inaction. Technology made the 21st century the American century and energy fueled that progress, from steamboats, to railroads to rockets in space.

Yet the decline in domestic energy production and the consequences from buying it from jihad cartels may be the undoing of those titanic achievements and imperil America's security.

I ask the question again: Can we diversify our energy sources to increase national security?

There is good news for Americans who believe we can dismantle the myth that America is forever dependent on Middle East oil. In the Caspian Sea, a body of water surrounded by former Soviet Republics, oil reserves of up to 33 billion barrels have been found, a supply greater than our own reserves and double that of the North Sea. And estimates say another 233 billion barrels of reserves could be lurking undiscovered somewhere in that sea. Such a massive amount of oil would constitute 20%-25% of the world's proven reserves.

Russia boasts even higher reserves.

Yet, America buys virtually no oil from Russia and the Caspian states. Russia and the Caspian states present the biggest opportunity in oil exploration and production for America, and it is a challenge to which America must commit.

To those who say it cannot be done, I point to the strong friendship between President Bush and President Putin. This friendship and trust affords America an historic opportunity share new technologies and modern management with our Russian ally.

In May, President Bush and President Putin launched the US-Russia energy dialogue. That discussion concluded that the future for Russian energy development depends upon lasting financial reforms. Russia knows corporate governance is its best hope at luring the capitol needed to build a lasting middle class.

Already, Russia has taken great steps in that direction under President Putin. Land reform, tax reform, and economic reforms have all been hallmarks of his administration.

As a result, American private investment is flowing increasingly into Russia. American investment in Russia, according to the US-Russia Business Council, is staying put. Are we stepping out of the twilight of the robber baron period of the 1990's?

In the months ahead, I believe American companies will welcome more, lasting reforms in Russia and in the Caspian states.

Capitalism is not a hat we wear to do business, Capitalism travels on paper:

Investment in the civic infrastructure of these nations is as important as any amount of money invested in transportation infrastructure.

Russia and Caspian states must fight organized crime and put an end to endemic corruption.

Russia must finalize banking reforms while improving investment laws and regulations.

Judges must not be subjected to pressure by the executive branch.

And transparent and impartial courts backed by the national government must enforce laws and contracts.

The steady, unabating stream of American capitol needed in these nations will never come until all financial commitments are secured by the Rule of Law.

Some of Caspian states have established oil funds managed by Western private investments companies. Russian might consider similar steps.

These lasting reforms will be engine of change that gives these nations a strong middle class.

America welcomes these changes and America welcomes Russian and Caspian oil.

America welcomes the construction of Caspian pipelines, which can unleash millions of barrels of landlocked oil.

America welcomes the idea of a second pipeline in the region.

It is not just a pipeline bringing oil to the West. For America it is a bridge to diversification. For the Caspian states, it is a bridge to modernity.

The bridge of reform in Russia could pave the way for expanded gas and oil production in Eastern Siberia, the Russian Far East, and offshore areas.

The bridge of reform could lead to the modernization of Russia's port and transportation infrastructures.

I believe these lasting reforms will be achieved. I believe these countries are committed to their future. Next month, U.S. and Russian officials will meet at the Houston energy summit. I look forward to hearing the proposals of reform from the Russian side.

We can indeed do more, and inaction should never be our pose.

But in all our actions, America should be guided the words spoken by Winston Churchill on the eve of World War II. Churchill said, "On no one quality, on no one process, on no one country, on no one route and on no one field must we be dependent. Safety and certainty in oil lie in variety and variety alone."

It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, we will act to diminish our dependency on rouge oil and terminate our Nation's financial connections to nations that sponsor terrorism.

We will act to seek variety by extending our partnerships with Russia and the Caspian States.

We will act to seek variety by expanding partnerships with allies such as Mexico and nations throughout South America.

We will act to seek variety by seeking out new opportunities in West Africa and Middle Eastern nations committed to democracy.

And most importantly, we will achieve variety by tapping the resources our great Nation was blessed with.

Great opportunities lie ahead and so do great dangers. No matter the dangers, America must not lose sight of the prospect of a new, democratic regime in Baghdad and the hope for a new producer of terror-free oil.

The future for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is unclear. GDP in that country has been in decline for two decades. A culture in decline breeds unrest, and we have seen that unrest breeds terrorism. My hope is that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will soon decide to become democratic, to separate Church from State.

But when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to abuse its vast reserves to intimidate other countries from hiking production, America must take pause.

We need to counter by shielding our economy from the whims of one single country.

We need to inject a new psyche into the market that says we no longer need to kowtow to fanatics and anti-American regimes.

A great Nation assumes the challenges that accompany a great cause. America has never shied from the leadership of challenge. In the arsenal of the American spirit is the American ability to overcome great barriers. We must act now to fasten that spirit to our backs and move ahead.

This new psyche can empower America. This new psyche can embolden our allies to action.

Action and inaction, challenge and ease have always been the two paths of mankind. Fellow citizens, we will choose the paths of action and challenge with boldness and determination, convinced by the rightness of our convictions and hopeful of the changes to come. In all that must be done, I know that America is ready and able to conquer this challenge.

Thank you and may God Bless America.



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