Former CIA Director James Woolsey explains how much of America’s foreign policy is driven by its energy policy.
>>> are there any boots on the ground at this time in libya?
>> not that i’m aware of.
>> do you know if there’s any time in the future that there are going to be boots on the ground in libya?
>> not as long as i’m in this job. i can’t speak to any cia activities.
>> well, that’s the defense secretary of our country, robert gates, ruling out boots on the ground. side stepping, of course, questions about intelligence operations that are being leaked and already active apparently inside libya. the debate about america’s military role in yet another oil-rich muslim nation highlighting just how much our foreign policy is driven by and revolves around the strategic importance of oil on this planet. those who control it, those who want to control it, those who abuse it. if we want a stronger, safer america, and for that matter a stronger, safer world, should we start talking more seriously about crushing the strategic importance of oil on this planet. joining us now, former cia director, james woolsey, to have that conversation. nice to see you.
>> good to be with you.
>> before we get into oil, and i don’t know how much you can talk about this, but what are the intelligence resources we have and are they adequate to get involved in a military conflict like the one we’re in with libya.
>> i have no inside knowledge of this, but the cia ought to be throughout the middle east learning what’s going on. your main purpose in the cia is to run spies and otherwise get get overt communications but to advise the u.s. government about that. if we’re not there in some numbers doing that, we’re missing that. a further step requires a presidential finding. press stories, that there is one, i have no idea.
>> let’s talk about the strategic importance of oil on the planet right now. how valuable is it strategically now and how does that mess with our lives?
>> it is vital. oil dominates about 96% of transportation around the world. and opec has something approaching 80% of the world’s petroleum reserves. we have 3%. so it takes — and it costs them a few dollars a barrel maximum to lift oil, say in saudi arabia. it costs us tens of dollars a barrel. and we are borrowing over a billion dollars a day in order to pay for both sides in the war on islamist terror. that’s not a good strategy. we are nuts in the degree to which we are locked into oil as the only way we can transport anything. we’ve got to change that.
>> do you feel like the political will exists to do what you’re talking about?
>> i think boone pickens has made a very good start by — there are several ways natural gas can help, not only in cleanly generating electricity but in substituting for oil in buses, in interstate trucking and to some extent perhaps individual vehicles. you can use natural gas to make methanol, with alcohol essentially quite affordably, if we had the right kind of plastic in the fuel lines in our cars the way the brazilians do, we could use not only gasoline but ethanol or methanol to drive on. but boone has made a very good start on this. i think what else we have to do is electrifying transportation helps. i drive a volt. it’s great. 30, 40 miles, all electric, and then you don’t have to find a plug because you’ve got gasoline in the tank. i think that improving the efficiency of internal combustion engines, using carbon component lightweight materials that are ten times stronger than steel but half the weight, all of those things at the same time to run right at oil, because, you know, my friend uses this great example. salt was a strategic commodity for thousands of years, the only way to preserve food, the only way to preserve meat. it was a really big deal. countries went to war over salt mines. and with the coming of the electricity grid, that ended in a few years. frozen meat was not only cheaper but tasted better. so refrigeration destroyed salt’s strategic role. we still use it, we put it on the sidewalks in the winter, eat it on corn on the cob, but nobody looks at the salt shaker when they go to the table and wonder if we’re salt independent.
>> let’s just look at some of the numbers. forget libya. cost of u.s. operations in iraq, $802 billion. cost of u.s. operations in afghanistan $455 billion. if oil didn’t have the strategic importance that it does have, would we be spending that kind of money.
>> the middle east is a strategically very important part of the world heavily because of oil. look, in the clinton administration where i served we went to war from the air twice and he didn’t have a drop of oil. we did it to save bosnians and kosovo. the you have has intervened in a number of circumstances in modern history. i think the main reason the president overcame his reluctance, which was quite obvious, and went into this situation in — against gadhafi is gadhafi’s explicit threats to massacre people. i mean that was about as vivid as you get. and i think that the use of air power in those circumstances is a reasonable thing for us to have done, just as it was in bosnia and kosovo.
>> as a man who ran the cia, i want your opinion on the following quote. the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.
>> that’s a great quote. that’s a great quote. not quite biblical, but a great quote.
>> i look forward to having more conversation with you this evening at the town hall. mr. woolsey will be joining us again as well tonight for more of this type of conversation. thank you so much for coming out today. james woolsey, former director of the cia under president clinton.