March 4, 2004

Panel Examines Foreign Oil

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David Dunford, former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Oman; David Driesen, associate professor at Syracuse University College of Law; and Max Martina, managing director at the Alternative Energy Institute spoke yesterday in Myron Taylor Hall in a panel presentation entitled “U.S. Foreign Oil Dependence: Is Alternative Energy the Forgotten Weapon in the War on Terrorism?”

The lecture was sponsored by the Clark Fund for the Middle East and the Cornell Law School Environmental Society. Moderator Steven Diamond introduced the three panel participants before turning the podium over to Dunford. “There is a new crisis each day. We have to address a different perspective — can an alternative energy policy help?” asked Diamond.

Dunford, who was first to speak, explained the current Middle Eastern political state and U.S. energy consumption’s effect on the region.

“We must approach the subject and look at the U.S. interest in the Middle East, and what effect our consumption has on the economic policy of other countries,” he said. He then mapped out what he believes are America’s ultimate interests: counter-terrorism, oil, Israel, democracy and human rights.

With regard to oil, “U.S. and Saudi Arabia production is roughly equivalent,” said Dunford. He continued, “U.S. consumption is one-fourth the world consumption. The Saudi Arabia policy is to keep us hooked. The price of oil now is $36.60 per barrel — it is a timely moment to talk about alternative energy.”

Dunford then moved on to the subject of the Middle East. He considered the question of the effect of oil on producers. Economically, oil production leads to the “dutch disease,” a complicated chain of events resulting in economic stagnation.

Despite income increases from oil, “Middle East qualities of life don’t go up as fast as you’d expect. The government is authoritarian, and much of oil revenues go to the military. Oil gives government a vacation from economics and politics,” said Dunford.

He then discussed the subject of Islam and terrorism. “We want to keep the peace process in play [in Israel]