Panelists discuss oil, war at Humphrey Institute forum

Nathan Hall

Oil and war are intrinsically linked, according to a recent University-sponsored discussion.

Approximately 40 students and faculty attended the international policy forum, held Friday at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Dean J. Brian Atwood, who was involved with the U.N. oil-for-food program, moderated the event.

The audience also heard from Dean Abrahamson, a Humphrey Institute professor emeritus, and William Easter, a University applied economics professor.

“Some would suggest that the (George W.) Bush administration is more interested in oil than democracy,” Atwood said. “I believe because of this we are going to see extremely heavy scrutiny in both the press and the world community in general as to how the oil question is answered post-Saddam (Hussein).”

Abrahamson, who also served on the University’s medical board, said, “This country is very wasteful in terms of energy use.”

Abrahamson said the primary constraints U.S. energy policy-makers must deal with are links between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, dramatic recent climate change and the geopolitical implications of oil distribution.

Abrahamson, who mentioned that at one point he turned down an offer to be a consultant for Exxon, said the world’s oil reserves would be severely depleted by 2010, based on current consumption projections.

He also said the most effective way to curb the nation’s over-consumption would be to “roll the true U.S. military cost into the price of oil.”

“New finds like the Caspian Sea help, but it’s not the solution because a solution means you actually solved something,” Abrahamson said. “There is no magic bullet, and we’ve known this for 40 years now.”

Easter said the United States has some of the lowest gas taxes in the world.

“Intense competition makes the price lower so we use it much more rapidly,” he said. “This stuff is so cheap, no wonder we use so damn much of it.”

Easter said he begrudgingly admired the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ business plan because they halt “any incentive for innovation and exploration” by only briefly fluctuating the barrel price.

Easter said, “It will be hard for our economy to adjust to such an abrupt change” when the oil finally runs out.

“You need to look where this administration is coming from, and that’s the Texas oil business,” he said. “They obviously want to have a big foot in the Middle East, so there’s no question that it’s at least in the back of their minds.”

Atwood said, “It’s in our best geo-strategic interest because of oil, much more so than other areas such as sub-Saharan Africa.”

However, Atwood repeatedly said oil was not the only reason for the urgency of attacking Iraq.

“It is highly unlikely that we will leave that oil in the ground,” Abrahamson said. “Time is so important as we are running out, so there’s a lot of money and clout behind that oil grab.”

Abrahamson said the Bush administration’s sense of expediency was “largely because of the oil revenue; they have probably produced nuclear weapons that they might share with their buddies.”

Nathan Hall covers the environment and transportation and welcomes comments at [email protected]