June 26, 2005 – Vol.10 No.14
SUPPORT THROUGH SACRIFICE?
In his speech to the nation this week to drum up support for the war in Iraq, President Bush asked us support U.S. troops serving around the globe: hang a flag on Independence Day, write letters to the troops in Iraq, help out a military family down the street. All easy stuff to do, support with little sacrifice.
At first glance a real sacrifice for Americans would be to cut back significantly on their gasoline consumption on the notion that if we didn’t need oil from the Iraq, and Middle East in general, we could just pack up and come home.
A new poll from the Civil Society Institute (CSI) and 40MPG.org shows many support this notion. In the survey of more than 1000 adults, 65 percent agreed with a statement saying that it is patriotic to drive a more fuel efficient vehicle since it requires less fuel to run and therefore can help reduce dependency on Middle Eastern oil.
But while some may claim the war isn’t about oil, 86 percent in the poll think Middle Eastern oil has played a major role or somewhat of a role in foreign policy in that region. So certainly people are making a connection between the war and oil.
However, even if enough Americans could rally together to make a significant dent in our oil imports from the region, is it a good idea to do so?
The same poll shows that 73 percent are now very likely or somewhat more likely to buy or consider buying a more fuel efficient vehicle than in the past. So, many people might be willing to rally.
But could cutting back on oil from the Middle East actually make matters worse?
Though while much of the wealth from oil is likely kept by the wealthiest in those nations, (Saddam certainly took his) some of the wealth does trickle down throughout those economies and creates jobs, but just not enough.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook, unemployment runs rampant in the Middle East. Unofficially the unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia is 25 percent. It’s 25 -30 percent in Iraq; 11 percent in Iran (officially, though probably much higher) and a whopping 35 percent in Yemen have no jobs (again unofficially). And, like the U.S., unemployment in those nations is generally highest among teens and twenty somethings: the age of many budding insurgents and terrorists.
So if it’s possible that high employment is one of the many causes for anger and violence in the region (repeat MANY causes) would importing less oil, or none perhaps, cause even greater violence as even more jobs evaporate?
What we should be asking is why isn’t more of the wealth of oil being spread out and used to create more jobs?
So yes, we should do everything we can to cut back on our dependence on imported oil. Our dependence is making our economy and our country insecure. (And for environmental concerns, of course, cut back on the burning of oil products altogether.)
But if we do cut back we need to send out a message to oil exporting countries: Use the wealth of your oil to create jobs in your economies. We need to say that loud and clear.
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