Wars are not won by oil, but by the courage and self-sacrifice of the people doing the fighting. Nevertheless, in the modern age, it is control of oil that determines which side’s courage and self-sacrifice are rewarded with victory.
During World War II, the United States produced 60 percent of the world’s oil, and its allies produced or controlled another 35 percent. The Axis powers, on the other hand, were limited to the 5 percent of world petroleum production represented by Nazi Germany’s own synthetic gasoline factories in Leuna; the Ploesti oilfields of Nazi-allied Rumania; and the Indonesian oilfields Japan seized during its rapid advance following Pearl Harbor.
Because of their ample fuel supplies, the Americans and the British were able to conduct massive convoy operations and supply huge armies and navies across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, while the Russians mobilized the largest tank armies in history. In contrast, the operations—and even the training—of Axis motorized forces were severely constrained. When, in May 1944, American bombers took out Leuna and Ploesti, the German war effort imploded.
In 1944, Nazi Germany produced 39,807 military aircraft and 22,100 tanks, but they were all nearly useless because of the lack of fuel. Indeed, in December 1944, the last German panzer offensive at the Battle of the Bulge literally ran out of gas on the battlefield.
After American submarines sank the Japanese tanker fleet, cutting off the home islands from the Empire’s Indonesian oil, the effect on the Imperial war effort was equally decisive. The Japanese actually produced more than 11,000 fighter aircraft during 1945, but they could not get one into the sky to challenge the Enola Gay when she showed up over Hiroshima. Without fuel, they were helpless.
This brings us to today. Unlike the 1940s, when the U.S. produced a majority of the world’s oil, we now produce only 8 percent. The majority of both production and reserves now rest in the hands of totalitarians committed to the destruction of the West. This places us in a very perilous situation.
Even short of war, this imbalance places the fate of our country in danger. This year, as a result of OPEC price-rigging sending oil to $135 per barrel, Americans will be forced to pay more than $1 trillion for oil—a tribute equal to a 40- percent increase in income tax across the board, and thus quite sufficient to throw the nation into a depression. Meanwhile, the OPEC powers will collect some $1.4 trillion in revenue, much of which is used to foment terrorism or put into Sovereign Wealth Funds to execute takeovers of American and European corporations that the oil taxation send into insolvency. Indeed, at the current rate of looting, the OPEC powers will accumulate sufficient funds to buy majority control of every corporation in the U.S. Fortune 500 within seven years.
In letting ourselves be dependent on a resource controlled by our enemies, we are rendering ourselves helpless— helpless in war, and helpless in peace. If we are to preserve the last, best hope of mankind, we need to take our heads out of OPEC’s noose.
The case for biofuels could not be more urgent.
Robert Zubrin, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is an astronautical engineer and author of Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil