Woolsey: National security tied to alternative energy

Monday - 1/17/2011, 6:49pm EST

James Woolsey, former CIA director

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By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Former CIA Director James Woolsey spoke with In Depth host Francis Rose about the ways the United States can move away from oil dependence.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey said the nation can take steps now to move away from its dependence on gasoline.

Woolsey, who served in the Clinton administration, pointed out that 95 percent of our transportation is dependent on oil. In addition to the environmental impact, this dependence on oil has sent "hundreds of billions" of dollars to foreign countries "that don't like us very much," Woolsey said in an interview with In Depth with Francis Rose.

"Before you get out to charge your gasoline and pump it, try to do what I try to remember to do: Turn the rear view mirror a couple of inches so you're looking in your own eyes and now you know the answer to the question for who's paying for those little boys who want to be suicide bombers," Woolsey said.

A new of way of consuming energy may not require major infrastructure changes, he said. For example, cars that run on electricity can be charged at home. Woolsey said he drives a Toyota Prius and a Chevrolet Volt and simply plugs them into the socket outside of his garage.

Woolsey advocated that the automotive industry develop an open fuel standard for fuel lines that would allow cars to run on either ethanol or methanol to compete with gasoline. Such a change would require using a different kind of plastic that would add $50 to $100 to the cost of each car, Woolsey said.

Car companies could also improve the internal combustible engine to increase efficiency, he added.

But these things have not happened because the oil and automotive industry have created a "joint monopoly," Woolsey said.

Research and development in alternative energy has resulted in more options. In addition to corn ethanol, there are now biodiesel fuels produced from plants and even algae, Woolsey said.

In fact, some Navy jet fuel uses some of this algae-based fuel, Woolsey said. The Navy has a goal that by 2020, half of its energy consumption will be from alternative fuel.

Also, in Afghanistan, forces are carrying solar panels instead of "schlepping kerosene," Woolsey said.

Woolsey applauded the military's overall shifts in energy use -- especially in the last few years.

"Once the American military gets the bit in its teeth and starts moving, a lot of other things get moving," Woolsey said.

Reaction to WikiLeaks
Technology has put government in a "real bind," Woolsey said. While it's made it easier to share information, the security systems have not kept up, he said.

"It's not an elementary school sandbox," Woolsey said. "Sharing is not the only virtue."

Woolsey said it was "crazy" that an 18-year-old first-class private was able to access the database that contained the information leaked to WikiLeaks.

"You can't run a network of classified material in such a way that anyone who gets on, even if they're a moderately skilled hacker, can figure out how to download anything on it," he said.