Energy Independence

[Washington Post] Gal Luft - At around $145 a barrel, the U.S., by my calculations, will spend more on imported oil this year than it will spend on its own defense budget, and much of that money will flow into the coffers of those who wish us ill. Iran is moving quickly toward energy independence. The Islamic republic has lots of crude but little capacity to refine it, leaving Tehran heavily dependent on gasoline imports. Ahmadinejad is fully aware that this is Iran's Achilles' heel and worries that a comprehensive gasoline embargo could cause enough social unrest to undermine his regime. So Ahmadinejad has launched an energy-independence program designed to shift Iran's transportation system from gasoline to natural gas, which Iran has plenty of. "If we can change our automobiles' fuel from gasoline to [natural] gas during the next three-four years," he said last July, "we won't need gasoline anymore." His plan includes a mandate for domestic automakers to make "dual-fuel" cars that can run on both gasoline and natural gas, a crash program to convert used vehicles to run on natural gas and a program to convert Iranian gas stations to serve both kinds of fuel. Ahmadinejad's plan means that within five years, Iran could be virtually immune to international sanctions. Last year, Israel launched an electric-car venture designed to turn it into an oil-free economy. Israelis will be able to replace their gasoline-fueled cars with battery-operated ones, which they'll plug into thousands of recharging points to be erected throughout the country. Motorists will be able to swap their batteries in a matter of minutes at dedicated stations or recharge them at home or at work. The writer is executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.

2008-07-04 01:00:00

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