R. James Woolsey served in the US Government under two Republican and two Democratic administrations. His accomplishments include serving as the Director of the CIA, Ambassador and Chief Negotiator for the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty in Vienna, and Under Secretary of the Navy. He has served on numerous corporate and non-profit boards. Currently he’s a popular speaker and contributes articles to newspapers and other periodicals on such issues as national security, energy, foreign affairs and intelligence. (see his op-ed) NewsRealBlog interviewed him for his opinions on these issues.
NewsRealBlog: It seems the point you want to emphasize is that the issue is that America must get off oil dependence.
R. James Woolsey: Whether liberal or conservative, renewable or non renewable, it doesn’t matter because you have to go at oil directly. We need a portfolio approach. No single solution, no single bullet. What the government ought to do is break the oil company’s monopoly that they have worked out with Detroit.
NRB: It seems there is a lot of talk in this arena but little action. Can you comment?
Woolsey: The reason nothing is getting done is because the solutions that Congress is putting forward does not have much to do with oil. The solutions they put forward: wind, solar, and nuclear are ways to produce electricity. The mechanism they put forward, cap and trade, and the policy changes they put forward, drill baby drill, don’t get us off oil.
NRB: You want to concentrate on transportation and not electricity?
Woolsey: Only 1 to 2 per cent of our electricity comes from oil. It is irrelevant to the oil problem. Switching from one mode to another on producing electricity does virtually nothing with respect to our oil dependence. However, oil dominates our transportation since 95% of our use comes from oil.
NRB: Do you think we should look to Brazil for alternate energy examples?
Woolsey: Yes. They told car manufactures to make the fuel lines in cars to accept gas as well as alcohol fuels such as methanol and ethanol. Half of their fuel is ethanol. This would break the monopoly of gasoline and OPECs monopoly of oil.
NRB: Do you support any particular alternative?
Woolsey: No. We should do a Teddy Roosevelt to break the monopoly. Let the market decide. There is natural gas and electricity to name a few.
NRB: How can we use alcohol fuels?
Woolsey: By changing the plastic in fuel lines. People could still use gasoline if they wanted to but they can have a choice of using ethanol, methanol, or gas. We used to have leaded and unleaded gas that was distributed separately.
NRB: What about using natural gas as an alternate energy source?
Woolsey: Natural gas can be used to help produce methanol. The cost would be 80 cents per gallon to produce. Because it has less energy than gasoline the real cost would amount to $1.20 per gallon. Fleet vehicles could be modified to use natural gas. Interstate trucking and buses that refuel at a single station can use it to put a dent into our oil use.
NRB: What about using natural gas for the family car?
Woolsey: Currently it appears that it would take a lot of infrastructure investment to have natural gas pumps at filling stations for the family car.
NRB: What about plug in cars like the General Motors Volt?
Woolsey: Plug in cars would also work. Three quarters of the cars in this country travel less than 40 miles per day. The Volt would drive 40 miles a day only on electric.
NRB: So the range of the Volt is not great. What if I want to go from Los Angeles to San Diego?
Woolsey: Basically the first 40 miles is from overnight electricity and then you are driving on electricity that is formed by the gasoline in your tank that acts as a generator that charges the battery the rest of the way. It can go 400 miles without stopping.
NRB: So is it like the Prius?
Woolsey: The Volt does not have a separate drive train like the Prius. It does not go back and forth between gasoline and electricity driving the wheels depending on your speed. (as is the case with the Prius)
NRB: To summarize, what is your opinion on alternate energy sources?
Woolsey: I am in favor for whatever the market decides. My goal is to break the barriers. Remember those countries where two-thirds or more of their income comes from oil are dictatorships or autocratic kingdoms.