While most of the media attention in DC today is focused on the CEO hearings, over in the Cannon Building on The Hill, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) is holding its long-planned Phase II Renewable Energy National Policy Forum. The big name speakers were former CIA head James Woolsey and New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman (we'll cover his talk in a bit).

Woolsey opened his morning talk with the traditional jokes (see here) and then moved into pretty much the same speech we heard at the Santa Monica AltCar Expo in 2006 and AFVi in 2007. Woolsey may be beating the same drum he's been beating for a long time, but it's a drum that gets heard. The trouble is, it's not a complete picture of the problems with oil. For one thing, Woolsey says that we're all responsible for funding dictators and countries that are not exactly friendly to the US because we keep buying their oil. True. But who do we import the most oil from? It's not Saudi Arabia or Venezuela. It's Canada. Apparently, we're all culpable in funding hockey teams across the great white north. (This post continues after the jump)

Another new bit in the speech was when Woolsey compared oil today to salt during most of human history. Until 1890, salt was a strategic commodity. It was how you could preserve meat, for example. Wars were fought over the important resource, but then the electric grid came and "salt was destroyed as a strategic commodity," he said. Today, there is no salt OPEC; no one cares where salt comes from. Why? Because salt's value was destroyed by electricity. This is exactly what we have to do with oil as well, he said. We shouldn't just move away from it slowly, but destroy the power that oil has over our country. The full room cheered when he said this.

Woolsey is somewhat agnostic as to how to do this - biofules are good, plug-ins are good, etc. but hydrogen is bad. Like the speakers at yesterday's EDTA panel on Congress and oil alternatives in transportation, Woolsey said that the government should not be in charge of choosing what replaces oil. "There have been very few worse ideas for the family car than hydrogen," he said, as an example of poor government choices.

Woolsey brought up his ultra-high-mileage biofuel hybrid, which is a bit of a smoke screen, but that doesn't mean he didn't get a loud round of applause for his speech. In fact, it's because so many people listen to him that it's good to check in with what he's (repeatedly) saying. ACORE is going to stream the proceedings here and/or here in the coming days, if you want to hear for yourself.


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