Courtesy Reuters

Needed: a Strategy for Oil

IN THE contemporary world oil is power. It is power in time of peace to develop great industrial establishments, and to transport goods and passengers on land, at sea and in the air. Its value as an item of trade exceeds that of any other commodity. In time of war, oil is power to expand industry and to exert strength at great distances. Atomic energy may partially supersede oil some day as a driving force in the modern state, but not in the visible future. Since oil is a prime essential for American security, our policy in regard to the supply and use of oil must be in harmony with other elements of national policy in United States strategic planning. In important respects it is not in harmony today.

The primary fact of the problem is that our requirements cannot be measured in commercial terms. If war could be dismissed as a possibility, the amount of oil that the United States will need at any given time could be fairly well calculated in advance. But the amount of oil we would need in an emergency in which the survival of the nation was at stake can hardly be reckoned. The only certainty is that in such an emergency the demand for oil would rise according to the degree of danger. Thus the imponderables of war enter into everything touching the discovery, production, refining and use of oil. Even in "normal" times the commodity value of oil is affected by political considerations.

In 1948, the former Petroleum Administrator for War, Mr. Ickes, stated that, except for a few local rules and regulations, "we have never had a national policy on oil and we have never had an international policy on oil."[i] It appears doubtful that the omission has been repaired in the interval. Of course, there are practices amounting to segments of policy relating to particular features of oil production, transportation and marketing, both at home and abroad--some of them the work of

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