Sebastian expert: Foreign oil bigger threat to U.S. economy than Gulf spill

SEBASTIAN — Few people know that dentist and developer Dr. Henry A. Fischer runs a prestigious 52-year-old organization dedicated to national security and energy independence, and that the American Security Council Foundation has a bustling office on Main Street in Sebastian.

The 48-year resident of Sebastian who is also sand mine owner and developer of Fischer Lake Island, San Sebastian Springs and other local communities, Fischer serves as president and CEO of the American Security Council Foundation headquartered in Washington, D.C. The board of directors of the foundation includes the likes of Ambassador John Bolton, Maj. Gen. John Thompson, former New York Governor George Pataki and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Though Fischer admits that the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a regional disaster, he still supports safe, regulated and limited off-shore drilling to ease the United States’ dependence on foreign oil.

“This is definitely a disaster of monumental proportions and a lot of people have changed their minds about off-shore drilling,” Fischer said.



“There will be a lot of anxiety about the marshes, but this will go away and we will clean up that environment, BP has the money to clean it up,” he said. “The real problem is with the United States being too dependent on oil from outside our borders.”

Thought-provoking statistics Fischer cited gathered from the American Security Council’s staff of researchers and analysts include the figure of 48 percent of all crude oil used by the U.S. is imported — a whopping 46 percent of which comes from OPEC nations.

“OPEC is not our friend, by the way, there’s a lot of influence of Muslim fundamentalism in OPEC, so this is not a great thing that we get that much oil from them,” Fischer said. “Our long-term energy problem needs to be solved.”

Fischer, a native of the Chicago area, joined the American Security Council 35 years ago out of concern about the spread of communism during the Cold War era. Today, one of the foundation’s most important projects is educating citizens and elected officials about the importance of the United States working toward producing all of its energy right here at home. Even in light of the massive British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Fischer said neither he nor the American Security Council has budged on its advocacy of the right kind of off-shore drilling.

“Deep off-shore drilling definitely needs more safety regulation, but shallow off-shore drilling does not carry with it the same risks,” he said.

“BP does not carry all the guilt in this, they were issued the permits and the okays by our government, the BP operation was not state-of-the art equipement, they should have had double casings and parallel wells,” Fischer said. “Other countries don’t allow the kind that kind of thing take place, they require two wells, double lining and cement on the inside of the wells.”

Apart from the Gulf oil spill touching the hearts of local residents, Fischer said the off-shore oil drilling industry has a meaningful impact on the pocketbooks of many people whose work puts them in contact with oil rigs, crews, tankers or refining operations.

“There are tens of thousands of people in this part of Florida employed in that business, a lot of Florida people, people from Sebastian,” he said. ‘I have friends in Brevard and in Indian River County who are employed as tugboat captains.”

Fischer said his researchers have found that it will take about 90 days for cleanup crews to start making headway on the damage from the oil spill and two to three years for the region to fully recover. The crisis, Fischer said, has not been handled in a textbook manner.

“Obviously the government has made mistakes and the biggest mistake was relying on BP almost exclusively,” he said. “You can’t totally blame BP, they built a cheap well, but the government approved it.”

To allow him to actively work on these issues and do research without leaving Indian River County, Fischer set up an office of the American Security Council in a commercial building on Main Street near City Hall. On staff there is an administrative professional and a former military officer who is an expert in national security and works as a policy analyst.

“We get a lot of stuff done right here in Sebastian,” he said.

Fischer hopes to beef up the staff in the near future by offering opportunities for interns to work within the foundation and learn about global energy politics and the interconnectedness of world trade.

Fischer said the cost of oil has drastic and far-reaching effects that go way beyond the price of gas at the pump or possibly an additional fuel charge on our electric bills. Continuing to let other nations and even nations hostile to the U.S. and all it stands for, control the production and trade of oil is dangerous to the entire economy and to the American way of life.

“If we don’t wake up, we’re going to be bankrupt,” he said. “Right now oil is about $70 a barrell. If the price hits $140 or $150 a barrell, we’re going to be like a third-world country. We need to start using the natural resources we have here in the U.S.”

Harnessing natural gas is one important solution, according to Fischer.

“The technology is there for natural gas,” he said. “We have the largest source of natural gas right here on our own soil from Texas right up to New York to the Canadian border. We just need to be able to get it out and to use it.”

Sinking resources into the serious research and development of economically viable green energy — especially wind and solar — is another. Improving clean-coal technology, he said, can help bridge the gap of a decade or more until the other forms of energy can be more effectively used. Fischer said the American Security Council also advocates the permitting of new nuclear power facilities, but small ones which serve local areas.

“Small-scale nuclear can be done in a safe and clean way. We need it, just as we need wind, solar, natural gas and drilling, we need all of it,” Fischer said. “We need the advanced technology and it will bring so many good jobs. If we don’t do this, in 30 years China will be telling us how to behave and how to trade.”

The website of the American Security Council constantly posts news updates on global political issues related to energy, trade and security. Recent posts published since the BP oil spill assert that if the United States does not drill in the Gulf, other countries will come in to fill the vacuum. Fischer said China would be the most likely as China is under huge pressures to find energy to feed its enormous population, though the foundation also mentions that Russia could come in and drill off the coast of Cuba.

The Russians have a large supply of natural resources, so it’s not very likely that they’ll drill off Cuba, but I’m more worried about China,” he said. “China is already drilling in Brazil and off-shore.”

If China continues to drive up the demand for oil and prices rise, Fischer said the U.S. will take a hit in two ways — a direct hit in paying more for oil and an indirect hit in paying more for Chinese-made goods that will cost more to produce because China is paying more for its own oil.

Fischer said he’s spoken to many local groups, including the North Indian River County Republican Club which he founded, about energy independence and how it’s intimately connected to the economic health of the nation. He said he welcomes the opportunity to speak to civic and homeowner groups or to provide materials and a video called “Crisis in the Americas” that can be used at meetings.



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