The United States could take back the $300 billion it loses annually in foreign oil imports through an energy intensive strategy that exploits all of the nation’s energy resources — fossil fuels and renewables alike — retired Gen. Wesley Clark said last Tuesday at the Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach, CA.

Among other things, Clark predicted that the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Western Canada eventually would be built but he added that the route may not be the one currenlty advocated by the project sponsor, TransCanada Corp.

Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and a 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, was a keynote speaker at the annual ACT conference, which drew 2,500 attendees, 171 exhibitors and more than 80 clean fuel vehicles. Clark now is an investment banker who focuses on energy issues, including shale oil/gas plays domestically and abroad.

Clark urged the competing alternative fuels companies to work more cooperatively, arguing that there is about a 7 million boe/d in alternative fuels that could be split among about seven different options ranging from natural gas, propane and biofuels to electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell-powered transportation.

“Some $300 million is there; that is what we are letting dribble out of the economy every year,” he said. “That is $300 million we could take back and use to spark American economic growth. That is what we have to do, but how do we do that?”

In response to his rhetorical question, Clark said the United States can’t do it relying on one alternative fuel. “No single element in the U.S. liquid fuels market can do it by itself.”

Without destroying the advantages of competitive, market-based dynamics, Clark challenged the alternative fuel stakeholders in the audience to work more cooperatively. “We have to use price signals in a free market, people still have to compete and the government can’t pick winners and losers, [I am not talking about] ‘socialism,’ but you still can have a national strategy.

“We need to take that 9.5 million bbl/d of imported oil and figure out how to not import that oil. Some of it could come from improved fuel standards, say 1 million bbl/d, some could come with improved domestic production in the various shale plays [another 1.5 million bbl/d], so that leaves you with 7-7.5 million bbl/d of imports.”

Clark said he would take that remaining amount and “carve it up” among the various alternative fuel choices. “My challenge to you, is how much can you [in your individual sector] do?” He said both compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas could be part of the solution.

“The peculiar thing about this liquid fuels market is everyone seems to hate everyone else,” said Clark, noting the nation could greatly increase the amounts of bio fuel it produces, but it runs into obstacles from other alternative fuel producers. “Individuals are worried they are going to get ‘a smaller piece of a smaller pie’, but in reality, there is plenty of pie for everyone.”

Clark said Americans must seize an opportunity to rejuvenate the nation’s economy by focusing on the liquid fuels market. “That’s the opportunity, and that’s the mission. If we don’t work together in this economy, if we all can’t have a shared vision, we can’t move this forward.”

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