In an exclusive interview with author of The Watchman’s Rattle and host of The Costa Report, Rebecca Costa, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, R. James Woolsey, stated that the price of America’s oil dependency must not only be measured in terms of national security, debt, and the environment, but also in terms of human life. Woolsey said,
“Lead was being used to increase the octane of gasoline up until the 1970’s. But instead of replacing it with an alcohol fuel – ethanol or methanol – the oil companies replaced the lead with Benzene and other aromatics (that sweet odor you smell when you’re pumping gasoline). Benzene is extremely carcinogenic and highly dangerous in terms of cardio pulmonary diseases.”
Woolsey referred to research conducted by former White House counsel and Ambassador to the European Union, C. Boyden Gray, which points to “tens of thousands of premature deaths every year because of the Benzene – this amounts to $100 billion in healthcare and lost productivity costs.” Woolsey points to a disturbing double standard when it comes to Benzene: “If you own a chemical plant and leak a little Benzene, you’re in big trouble because everyone knows how carcinogenic it is. But coming out of a tailpipe? The government never does anything about that.”
When asked about obstacles preventing cleaner fuels, Woolsey claims the auto industry has been slow to make simple, inexpensive modifications (about $100 per vehicle) – modifications which would allow consumers to choose between gasoline, and alternatives such as ethanol and methanol to power their vehicles. According to the former Director of the CIA,
“We aren’t addicted to oil, but our cars are. Through the years, a partnership between Detroit and Houston has produced a situation where the kind of plastic that is used for the fuel lines of cars deteriorates if you expose it to alcohol – ethanol or methanol – so you have to put a slightly higher grade of plastic in the fuel line. That’s really all you have to do. Then you have a flexible fuel vehicle. Then we could do what the Brazilians do, which is drive into a filling station, look at the prices of ethanol and gasoline, and decide which one they want.”
Woolsey says American auto manufacturers don’t want “mandates” which require rapid conversion. That said, he’s optimistic the government will take the lead. He points to the Open Standard Flexible Fuel Line Act, a congressional bill which would require automobile makers to use plastic fuel lines suitable for ethanol and methanol fuels.
About R. James Woolsey
R. James Woolsey is Chairman of Woolsey Partners, LLC and a Venture Partner with Lux Capital Management. He also Chairs the Board of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and is a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Mr. Woolsey held Presidential appointments in two Republican and two Democratic administrations, most recently serving as Director of Central Intelligence in the Clinton administration. Woolsey also served as the Under Secretary of the Navy, Ambassador to the Negotiation on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, General Counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services and Delegate at Large to the U.S.-Soviet Strategic Arms Reduction Talks and Nuclear Space Arms Talks. As an officer in the U.S. Army he was an advisor on the U.S. Delegation to Strategic Arms Limitation Talks in Helsinki and Vienna. Mr. Woolsey currently chairs the Strategic Advisory Group of the Washington D.C. private equity fund, Paladin Capital Group, and he is counsel to the Washington D.C. office of Boston-based law firm, Goodwin Proctor where he specializes in a range of alternative energy and security issues.
About Rebecca D. Costa: http://www.rebeccacosta.com
Rebecca Costa is a sociobiologist who offers a genetic explanation for current events, emerging trends and individual behavior. A thought-leader and provocative new voice in the mold of Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell and Jared Diamond, Costa examines “the big picture”– tracing everything from terrorism, crime on Wall Street, epidemic obesity and upheaval in the Middle East to evolutionary forces. Retiring at the zenith of her executive career in Silicon Valley, Costa spent six years researching and writing The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction. The success of Costa’s book led to a weekly radio program in 2010 called The Costa Report. A former CEO and founder of one of the largest marketing firms in Silicon Valley (sold in 1997 to J. Walter Thompson), Costa developed an extensive track record of introducing new technologies. Her clients included industry giants such as Hewlett-Packard, Apple Computer, Oracle Corporation, Seibel Systems, 3M, Amdahl, and General Electric Corporation.