Sunday, December 3, 2006

Carter urges oil independence

Saturday, December 02, 2006
News staff writer

Former President Jimmy Carter said Friday the nation must reverse its growing dependence on imported oil from nations that aren't always friendly to U.S. interests.

"That's a big problem that we face and I think that's a big opportunity for progress," said the 82-year-old Carter, who was in Homewood to promote his latest book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid."

The former Georgia governor and peanut farmer, who was president from 1977 to 1981, said the nation was heavily dependent on foreign oil when he took office, importing 9 million barrels a day.

Carter said he made energy conservation a major priority, got Congress to pass some "tremendous legislation" and that the nation's oil imports were down to 5 million barrels a day five years later.

"Now we're importing 12 million barrels a day," Carter said, "and that makes us heavily dependent on the approval and cooperation of nations that are sometimes not completely compatible with our own foreign policy." Those nations, he said, include Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela.

The problem, Carter said, is that oil company interests, not "the people's interests," have set U.S. energy policy for the past six years. He said he hopes the newly elected Democratic Congress will change that.

A big issue that produced the Democratic Congress was the U.S. war in Iraq, which Carter has called "one of the greatest blunders" ever made by an American president.

"We had almost unanimous agreement to support us after 9/11," said Carter, whose presidency is remembered partly for the efforts he led to make peace.

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