Past Seminar

World War IV and Energy Security

Sep 11, 2002

About the Event

World War IV and Energy Security                                                                                                 September 11, 2002

R. James Woolsey
Booz Allen Hamilton and formerly, Director of Central Intelligence

The events of September 11, 2001 have forced Americans to examine their relationships in the Middle East and the security of the energy that we and others import from there. Mr. Woolsey discusses the geopolitics of oil and one way that the U.S. might dramatically reduce its dependence on imported oil – ethanol from biomass.

Video of this lecture and commentary on Woolsey's remarks follow below.

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R. James Woolsey Link to Video   
Booz Allen Hamilton and formerly, Director of Central Intelligence


Link to video


Stop Fueling the Terrorists
Former CIA Director James Woolsey says if the Bush administration wants to win the war on terrorism, the United States must become independent of Middle East oil

The Bush administration must urgently rethink its energy policy if it is to succeed in the war on terrorism, former CIA director James Woolsey said today.

Speaking on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon at the independent energy and environmental research center, Resources for the Future, Woolsey called on the president to reduce U.S. dependence on Middle East oil by:

  • encouraging the use of more fuel-efficient hybrid cars;
  • generating ethanol from biomass or waste;
  • beefing up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1 billion barrels; and
  • increasing Russian oil production by 50 per cent.

“I have not been pleased with the president’s energy policy, to put it mildly,” Woolsey said. “I admire President Bush’s effort in the fight against terror, but his energy policy goes against what he is trying to accomplish in that war.”

Woolsey said people in the Middle East have some justification in thinking the United States has but one interest in the region: “They think we want to use it as a gas station, that we have no interest in the people. They perceive that America is in bed with their own oppressive regimes and believe our lack of willingness to stand up for human rights in their countries is based on our thirst for oil.”

While the terrorists of al Qaeda are motivated by hatred of our freedoms and envy of our success, Woolsey said oil wealth in the Middle East is fueling terrorism. “They understand the leverage they hold has a lot to do with our own behavior, and we must start to understand that as well.”

Woolsey, drawing on his extensive experience in counter-terrorism and international affairs, outlined a four-point domestic energy plan as what he called “the oil component of the U.S. war strategy”.

He said the United States must undermine the tactical short-term weapon possessed by Saudi Arabia, whose oil reserve capacity of 3 billion barrels a day functions as the “energy equivalent of a nuclear weapon” that could destroy western economies. Woolsey said the United States must take urgent steps to increase our own Strategic Petroleum Reserve to at least one billion barrels, and encourage our allies to stockpile oil. “With instant access to 2 billion barrels, we would take away that Saudi weapon.”

He also called on the Bush administration to take steps to double Russian oil-producing capacity from its current 6.9 million barrels a day. This, he said, would involve convincing Russia to privatize its pipelines and ports. “For all the problems Russia has in its move to democracy, it is far more likely to develop into a reasonable democratic country than Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Critical of both the administration and Congress for rejecting plans to tighten fuel economy standards, Woolsey said the move to highly fuel-efficient hybrid cars must be strongly encouraged. “We have five-passenger hybrid cars in the dealerships now. They get 50 miles per the gallon compared to the average SUV’s 10 to 15 mpg. There should be as many incentives as possible to scrap older cars and move to hybrids.”

Woolsey added that rather than concentrate on fuel cells and other new technologies that would not be available for some time into the future, the urgency of the war on terror requires solutions with existing technologies that can be adopted now. “We have to focus on what we have now, what technology we have now, what can be incentivized now, what’s in dealer showrooms now.”

Once such idea, he said, was the use of biomass or waste with genetically modified biocatalysts to produce ethanol. Relying on biomass rather than corn to produce ethanol would mean that cars – without much adaptation – could be as much as 85 per cent fueled by ethanol.


  • R. James Woolsey