The United Sates must act now to avoid the economic catastrophe that would result from a cut-off of Persian Gulf oil, a book released yesterday by a team of Harvard experts contends.
The study, directed by Joseph S. Nye, professor of Public Policy and former Undersecretary of State, recommends the U.S. enact emergency allocation procedures, bolster its stockpiles of oil, and adopt cooperative strategies with its allies for emergency oil distribution.
Current energy policies, emphasizing gradual reductions of oil imports, fail to protect the U.S. from sudden economic and political disruptions following an oil supply cut-off, the study, entitled "Energy and Security," charges.
"What we've done is argue how you should think about energy as a security problem," Nye said Wednesday, adding that past studies have not integrated energy issues with military and security concerns.
Nye and the book's 13 contributors outlined their findings at a morning press conference in Washington, D.C. and discussed their domestic and international security recommendations with top government officials, including several members of President-elect Reagan's transition team, at an afternoon conference.
The Harvard energy and foreign policy experts--from the Energy and Environmental Policy Center (EEPC), the Center for International Affairs (CFIA), and the Center for Science and In- ternational Affairs (SIA)--stressed that the book is the first to offer proposals other than import reductions to mitigate the impact of an oil cut-off.
"The book starts with the assumption that we'll have problems" and recognizes national vulnerability to oil shocks in "unstable regions," William Hogan, director of the EEPC and a contributor to the study, said yesterday.
But he emphasized that the study's recommendations are not "panaceas," adding that "it takes a terrible situation and makes it only an awful situation."
Prepared before the October outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, the study singles out a conflict between those two nations as the "most likely" event to disrupt U.S. oil supplies from the Middle East, David Deese, assistant to the director of the CSIA and a co-editor of the book, said Wednesday.
Deese said the specialists criticize the current emphasis on reducing oil imports as the nation's entire strategy because "no matter how well we do," the U.S. will be importing oil for at least ten years--and thus should have a plan for decreasing not only its imports, but its "vulnerability" to their sudden cut-off.
The "fair market" allocation procedures the group advocates for dealing with sudden import cut-offs "need not be any less fair than rationing, but would be much more effective" because of their emphasis on cash rebates, Nye said