Last month, while the American people were becoming the personal ATMs of [OPEC], Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Saudi Arabia signing away an even more valuable gift: nuclear technology. In a ceremony little-noticed in this country, Ms. Rice volunteered the U.S. to assist Saudi Arabia in developing nuclear reactors, training nuclear engineers, and constructing nuclear infrastructure. While oil breaks records at $130 per barrel or more, the American consumer is footing the bill for Saudi Arabia's nuclear ambitions.
In 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney said, "[Iran is] already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. No one can figure why they need nuclear, as well, to generate energy." Mr. Cheney got it right about Iran. But a potential Saudi nuclear program is just as suspicious. For a country with so much oil, gas and solar potential, importing expensive and dangerous nuclear power makes no economic sense.
The Bush administration argues that Saudi Arabia can not be compared to Iran, because Riyadh said it won't develop uranium enrichment or spent-fuel reprocessing, the two most dangerous nuclear technologies. At a recent hearing before my Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman shrugged off concerns about potential Saudi misuse of nuclear assistance for a weapons program, saying simply: "I presume that the president has a good deal of confidence in the King and in the leadership of Saudi Arabia."
That's not good enough. We would do well to remember that it was the U.S. who provided the original nuclear assistance to Iran under the Atoms for Peace program, before Iran's monarch was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Yes, that history shouldn't be forgotten.
And recent history might also be of some use, too. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers were Saudis. Twice this year President Bush has traveled to Saudi Arabia, hat in hand, and represented the U.S. in the following way:
"I hope that OPEC, if possible, understands that if they could put more supply on the market it would be helpful."
Love the Texas bravado, there, W. And after they twice rebuffed Bush's strongly-worded "hopes" on the international stage, he decides to reward them with some nuclear infrastructure.
Think about that when you're watching the numbers spin at the gas pump today.