Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is urging members of Congress to make U.S. energy independence a top priority. He made his comments in a rare appearance by a former president before a Senate committee Tuesday.
Former President Carter told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States must find ways to reduce its dependence on imported oil and use less energy.
He said the failure to do so could threaten U.S. national security and undermine future economic growth.
"I would guess that our entire status as a leading nation in the world will depend on the role that we play in energy and environment in the future," said Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Carter made similar appeals for energy conservation when he was serving in the White House three decades ago. At the time, the nation was grappling with an energy crisis. Long lines of automobiles formed at gasoline stations, and some states resorted to rationing gasoline.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the downside of U.S. dependence on imported oil is growing:
"Economically, it results in a massive, continuous transfer of American wealth to American exporting nations and it leaves us vulnerable to price and supply shocks," said John Kerry. "But the true cost of our addiction extends far beyond what we pay at the pump. Its revenues empower and sustain despots and dictators and it obliges our military to defend our energy supply in volatile regions of the world at very great expense."
The hearing comes as Congress considers broad energy legislation - a top priority for the Obama administration. Lawmakers are considering establishing tighter emissions controls and stricter environmental standards.