The United States should accelerate development of renewable energy sources because of increased risk from terrorist attacks that could cripple the economy, former national security adviser Robert McFarlane said Saturday.
Speaking at a renewable energy summit organized by Sen. Ken Salazar, McFarlane, who was national security adviser for President Reagan, said an attack last year on a Saudi oil terminal was a warning of what could happen if terrorists carry out their threats to go after oil supplies.
He said a truck filled with explosives came within 100 yards of the oil terminal before it was stopped. Had the attack succeeded, it would have knocked out a terminal that supplies 6 million barrels of oil a day for a year, tripling the cost of a barrel of oil to $150 a barrel overnight.
“They came within 100 yards of taking 6 million barrels a day off the market for a year,” said McFarlane, who now runs an energy investment company.
McFarlane said Japan, which is heavily dependent on oil from the Persian Gulf, would have been the first to see its economy collapse if the attack had succeeded. He said there are a dozen terminals at risk in Saudi Arabia alone.
He said renewable energy provides the best alternative because the number of stable oil-producing countries is dwindling. He said Russia and Venezuela are increasing state control over their oil industries, and the United States can no longer depend on them to supply oil.
“Most of the oil is now owned by state governments,” he said.
McFarlane said new renewable energy technologies like ethanol from cellulose can be on the market in two years and solar energy could provide a substantial amount of the electricity the world needs.
He said cars made from carbon and increased conservation also would help reduce the demand for fossil fuels.
“The solution is within our reach. We have to get busy,” he told the 1,100 people who attended the summit.
Salazar said $3 a gallon gas, the threat to national security and global warming are driving the need for more renewable energy, and Colorado has the resources to develop solar, biomass and wind technology.
While the past decade was the decade of the Internet and telecommunications, this decade is the decade for renewable energy, said Salazar, D-Colo.
“Colorado is the Energizer bunny of the world,” he said.