'OPEC can be broken by making oil the new salt'

Ex-CIA head James Woolsey says that in Brazil, cars are converted quite cheaply to allow them to run on ethanol.

February 1, 2012 17:30
1 minute read.
Brazilian mini-car can run on gasoline, ethanol

Brazilian mini-car can run on both gasoline, ethanol 390. (photo credit: REUTERS/Handout)

The only way to break the OPEC cartel of oil-producing nations is to figure out how to make the commodity as boring as salt, Foundation for Defense of Democracies chairman and ex-CIA director James Woolsey said Wednesday at the Herzliya Conference.

Salt held a monopoly over meat preservation until the introduction of electricity grids paved the way for refrigeration, Woolsey said.

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Similarly, he added, oil still has an almost complete monopoly on transportation, and “you can’t live without that next bite of food, which in the US travels an average distance of 1,500 miles before getting to you.”

Woolsey said there were four energy sources vehicles can drive on that are cheaper than oil: ethanol, methanol, electricity and natural gas. He proposed following Brazil’s example, where cars are converted quite cheaply to allow them to run on ethanol, which the South American nation produces from sugarcane to cut down on costs.

Vehicles can be converted to run on ethanol or methanol simply by purchasing an O-ring (a mechanical gasket) for about 41 cents from the local hardware store, Woolsey said.

“If you can pull into a filling station and drive on gasoline, ethanol or methanol at your choice, we don’t have the price of oil being set any more by OPEC,” he said. “We have you telling OPEC what parameters it needs to operate in, because you get to decide what to drive on, just like a Brazilian.”

Woolsey made the comments while speaking about possible scenarios involving oil production. The other speakers on the panel were Beijing Energy Efficiency Center founding director Zhou Dadi, International Energy Agency head Aad van Bohemen, Dr. Brenda Shaffer of Haifa University’s political science department, and Israeli Institute for Economic Planning chairman Yossie Hollander.

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