WASHINGTON (Reuters) -On the eve of U.S. President George W. Bush’s address to Congress which is expected to tout the need for more U.S. energy independence, Saudi Arabia’s U.S. ambassador on Monday said that the world’s biggest oil user will rely on Middle East crude oil “for many years to come.”
Bush’s annual State of the Union address on Tuesday is expected to touch on key energy policy points after Bush made the surprise pronouncement during last year’s address that the United States is addicted to crude oil, including supplies imported from the Middle East.
However, U.S. policymakers should be talking about interdependence with Middle East suppliers, not independence, said Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the kingdom’s U.S. ambassador, speaking at George Washington University.
“I think we should be talking not about being independent of Middle East oil for the United States but rather being interdependent with the Middle East for energy sources,” Al-Faisal said.
The United States and other nations “will remain in need of the resources of our part of the world in the energy sector for many years to come and that is something that your people should realize,” he said.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest crude oil producer and the linchpin of the OPEC producer group, which pumps over a third of global oil supplies.
A rising focus on “energy security” by both the Bush administration and Congress has added momentum to efforts to employ home-grown fuel sources like ethanol to reduce U.S. dependency on oil imports.
About 60 percent of U.S. petroleum supplies come from imports currently.
Following that theme, Bush is likely to call for more U.S. usage of home-grown supplies of ethanol, sources have told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
One source briefed by White House officials said Bush’s speech on Tuesday could call for over 60 billion gallons a year of ethanol to be mixed into U.S. gasoline supplies by 2030 – or about 30 percent of current U.S. gasoline consumption.
Energy Department officials say that a conservative limit of ethanol from corn is about 13 billion gallons. But the Bush administration wants to make ethanol production from cellulosic materials like wood chips cost-competitive with corn-based ethanol by 2012, allowing for greater renewable fuel use.
The U.S. economy will continue to rely on crude oil imports — which currently account for more than half the nation’s oil consumption — panelists told a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee earlier this month.
“Barring draconian measures, the United States will depend on imported oil for a significant fraction of its transportation fuel needs for at least several decades,” said Linda Stuntz, an energy attorney and former Energy Department official, citing a Council on Foreign Relations report.