Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Soaking in it

Of course, it's too much to hope for with oil executives running the United States, even during the presidential election campaign, but wouldn't it be nice if escalating tensions with Venezuela, a major energy supplier, leads to a re-examination of U.S. dependence on foreign oil? The drain on the U.S. economy is enormous, with imports running near 10 million barrels a day and the per barrel price still above $90, and it's mostly unnecessary. The United States still produces around half of the oil it uses every day and could expand its production of alternative fuels and other sources of energy if massive conservation efforts fall short. But that will take a major campaign by the White House, and the current occupant does not appear to be interested. Are any of the candidates listening? The economic and political cost of oil is in the news because Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cut oil exports to Exxon Mobil Corp. today in retaliation for the oil giant's obtaining a court order freezing $12 billion in assets owned by PDVSA, Venezuela's state oil company. Exxon Mobil sought the freeze to ensure payment for an oil project the South American country nationalized last year. Chavez had threatened to cut all oil exports to the United States, its largest customer, saying Washington was behind Exxon Mobil's move. The United States has denied the allegation. Other major oil producers have said they will make up for any interruption in Venezuelan supplies, according to the Reuters international news service.

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