WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush aptly described America's insatiable appetite for oil as an "addiction." My old Webster's Dictionary defines the word as an "obsessive dependence" and offers as examples: "drugs, alcohol and gambling." Oil isn't mentioned -- but mine is an early 1970's edition -- printed before the 1973 Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries oil-embargo, Jimmy Carter, and tax deductions for installing roof-top solar panels. Neither Webster nor Mr. Bush point out that in order to "feed their habit," addicts must pay out mountains of cold hard cash to very unsavory characters who are often as deadly as the addiction itself. That's always been the case with heroin or crack and today it's increasingly true of petroleum.
The cold, hard cash outlay has become astronomical. Last week, the government announced that the U.S. trade deficit widened to a record $726 billion in 2005 -- more than $251 billion of that in oil imports. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the cost of petroleum imports climbed 39 percent -- about the same rise we experienced in 2004.
But it's not just a more costly product -- demand has surged as well. In 1973, the United States imported 28 percent of its oil. A decade later that figure had jumped to 35 percent, and by 1993 we were bringing in 44 percent. Today, we import more than 58 percent of the oil we use. If demand continues to grow at current rates -- and no significant domestic alternatives are found or developed -- the United States will have to import an estimated 70 percent of its oil by 2025. And that is a national-security nightmare -- for just as drug cartels use "coke cash" to kill, many of the recipients of our petro-dollars have taken aim at the heart of America.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.