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Another way to beat al Qaeda: Energy independence?

By Jim Acosta and Erika Dimmler, CNN
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Energy dependence fueling terror?
  • Former CIA director says ending the addiction to foreign oil would send a clear signal to al Qaeda
  • The bumper sticker on his car reads "BIN LADEN HATES THIS CAR
  • Years after the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden told his followers to attack oil installations in the Mideast

Washington (CNN) -- In Osama bin Laden's 1998 fatwa calling for violent jihad against the United States, a key part of the al Qaeda leader's first rationale for holy war is oil.

"For over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples," bin Laden said.

In 2004, three years after the September 11 attacks on the United States, bin Laden summoned his followers to attack oil installations in the Middle East as a way to jack up gas prices and destabilize the American economy.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey has tried to call attention to the link between America's addiction to foreign oil and terrorism. He has repeatedly said U.S. taxpayers were paying for "both sides" in the war on terror, American soldiers on one end and the terrorists who receive support from oil-rich nations on the other.

On every fuel efficient vehicle he drives, he posts the same bumper sticker: "BIN LADEN HATES THIS CAR."

Woolsey's latest petro-sipping car bearing that sticker is a 2011 Chevy Volt which runs on both electricity and gas.

Behind the wheel of his Volt on a Maryland country road, Woolsey notes bin Laden once stated he'd like to see the price of oil reach nearly $150 dollars a barrel.

"He thinks it can break the economy. He thinks it could hurt us big time and he has a point," Woolsey told CNN three days before bin Laden's death.

For Woolsey, the only solution is to break OPEC's dominance on global energy supplies.

"In the interest of everybody, we need to undermine oil's strategic role. We need to be able to drive on things other than oil," Woolsey said. "Even if they have a monopoly of oil, they don't have a monopoly on transportation. We need to break that link," he said.

In short, Woolsey wants to hit them where it hurts.

Presidents from Nixon to Obama have called for energy independence. But that enthusiasm to kick the foreign oil habit tends to rise and fall with the price at the pump.

During the latest spike in gas prices, voters went to congressional town halls with demands for answers.

"My gas bill for my three vans has gone up hundreds of dollars a month," Eileen Gaines said at one town hall. Gaines decided against hiring a new employee for her Florida fire suppression business because of higher fuel costs for her company's commercial vehicles.

"I would have hired two months ago. We really need this (new employee) right now," Gaines said.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are once again pushing new domestic oil drilling. Just this week, the GOP controlled House of Representatives passed legislation that would expand off-shore exploration.

"We need to learn how to become more efficient with energy. But we also have to figure out how to produce more domestically," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said at a recent town hall.

There are no expressways on the road to energy independence.

Energy analysts point out new domestic oil production would take years to have an impact on gas prices. Millions of additional electric cars on the road would require countless new charging stations.

Woolsey sees a bigger game changer. Take the gas/electric car he drives now and convert it into a flex-fuel vehicle. When the electricity runs out, ethanol fuel in the tank would kick in to recharge the car's battery.

Of course, ethanol critics wonder what that would do to corn prices.

Either way, the former CIA director says ending the addiction to foreign oil would send a clear signal that al Qaeda is running on empty.

"I think it would be a very bracing message. It would say that the United States can get its act together," Woolsey said.

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