Gal Luft is a serious, driven young man. As a graduate researcher at John Hopkins University in the aftermath of 9/11, he and his long time colleague Anne Korin felt that there should be an independent think tank specifically dedicated to the Energy Security question. He was not alone with this idea. Several highly placed government professionals felt the same way and came together to form IAGS - the Institute for Analysis of Global Security. It was functioning with Gal as Executive Director by the Spring of 2002. Since then, Gal and IAGS have given testimony in front of several Congressional committees, worked with Congressional staffers, given interviews with major columnists and editorial writers, and formed the Set America Free Coalition (SAF) to spread the word about ways to improve US energy security. Since I am an energy security "fellow traveler," I have known Gal for about 3 years. US involvement in the Mideast is an example of our need for Energy Security.

ABG: IAGS has broad support from across the political spectrum - conservative to liberal. How did you manage to achieve that?

GAL: Energy Security is a common platform across many political organizations. By focusing on that issue alone we removed other flashpoints that sometimes polarizes discussion.

ABG: Since 2002, what would you say are IAGS greatest successes?

GAL: The launching of Set America Free, our outreach organization, has proven very successful. We pulled together many likeminded groups - national security groups, 9/11 Families, religious organizations, environmentalists, the Apollo Alliance, etc. Like IAGS, it issues newsletters and advises Congress on developments in the Energy Security field and promotes a blueprint for energy security for the U.S..

The Q&A continues after the jump.
ABG: What has been your greatest failure?

GAL: It is not quite accurate to say failure but I will say we would want more attention paid to ethanol from feedstock other than corn.

ABG: How do you differentiate yourself from other advocacy groups?

GAL: Our focus on Energy Security separate from the environment or pollution or global warming sets us apart. There are plenty of other groups focusing on those issues. For instance, we are trying to increase interest in methanol because, unlike ethanol, you do not need food crops to create methanol. Methanol is more scalable than ethanol, meaning we could use it for a larger portion of our transportation needs than ethanol.

ABG: You have spoken to many major opinion makers like Tom Friedman of the New York Times and Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek. What are the bright spots from that effort?

GAL: It is a long process. We are building public awareness on these difficult, even uncomfortable issues. It takes time.

ABG: It would seem the ethanol from corn has done very well in Congress, better than other fuels. Now there is growing opposition to corn based ethanol. Where does IAGS stand?

GAL: IAGS favors ethanol not only from corn along with other energy choices. We feel there should be a level playing field for all the fuels. We call the cars that can accommodate those fuels GEM - gasoline, ethanol and methanol. They should be allowed to develop in the marketplace under the same rules. Right now, gasoline is imported with no tariffs but ethanol (sugar cane) from Brazil has to pay a 54 cents tariff. How does that benefit the typical American?



ABG: Can you clarify the difference between IAGS and SAF?

GAL: IAGS is the policy advising organization. Set America Free is an outreach organization, supplying information to the public and hoping to build an energy security consensus.

ABG: Are you optimistic about the US energy future at this time?

GAL: Yes, I am optimistic. We will get it right. It is just that I fear it will take another crisis to get us going down that road.

ABG: Do you feel that the US public really understands how serious the energy problem is?

GAL: Probably not. It is like going to the dentist. When you feel that discomfort, you know you have to go. The same will happen for energy. Also, the other factors about energy use - global warming, local air quality problems, the economics - are all pointing in the same direction.

ABG: Gal, thank you very much.

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