Thursday, May 26, 2011

Oil Transport: A Big, Fat, Slow Soft Target for Attacks

Despite a slight let up, the national average gas price is still close to $4 a gallon. That is up more than a dollar a gallon from a year ago. Last week, Chicago topped the list as the most expensive city to buy gas in with an average price of $4.44 a gallon. 70% of Americans say that these extreme costs are causing their families financial hardship. It’s no wonder Congress wants to investigate the oil companies because these prices are criminal. Beyond the continued assault on our paychecks, oil leaves us vulnerable to armed assaults by groups that oppose America and its allies and their economic and security consequences.

Unfortunately, to put gas in your car requires it be moved thousands of miles by giant sea tankers and then trucked overland to your local station. It burns a whole lot of gas just to get gas to the pump. Worse yet, imagine the difficulty and expense of getting diesel fuel to our troops downrange in hostile territory. By some estimates, it costs us $100 a gallon to get fuel to our soldiers from the source to their vehicles. As a Purple Heart recipient, I can personally vouch for the danger our troops face in convoys transporting fuel because I had to do it daily in Iraq.

Oil and gas transport is a huge and soft target for terrorism, which we all need to be mindful of after the threats of retaliation following the death of Osama bin Laden. Experts have long been concerned about the vulnerability of sea tankers and land-based fuel convoys. In uniform in Iraq and Kuwait and again as a military contractor there I witnessed incredibly long, slow-moving, and under-protected convoys of fuel trucks. Last year NATO fuel convoys in Pakistan came under multiple attacks and more have come just this week. Elsewhere this week, an oil tanker was attacked off the Gujarat Coast in Indian waters. Last summer a Japanese oil tanker was attacked in the Strait of Hormuz off Oman. There have also been attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Malacca off Indonesia. Attacks by Somali pirates in the Persian Gulf continue to be a security issue for oil transport.

The ridiculous cost of gas to consumers is already bad enough, but if you add to it the huge national security vulnerability it creates, continuing to be dependent on oil is dangerous and especially so for our troops downrange. It is time to move on.