James Woolsey is hard to pin down.
He has held esteemed positions in both Democratic and Republican administrations. He's strong-willed on foreign policy matters but leans left in economic and social matters. He was an advisor to John McCain as well as an advocate for confronting global warming.
It's safe to say that he follows his own path.
The former CIA Director in the Clinton administration is in Hawaii to speak at the Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and briefed a small group last night on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 World Trade Center attacks.
Woolsey's son was in the World Trade Center on the morning of the attack and watched the building collapse behind him as he escaped the disaster. Woolsey said, "We took a terrible hit as a nation but thanks to law enforcement and intelligence people, we were able to deal with this decade." He added that he "takes his hat off to President Obama" for the order to kill Bin Laden.
I spoke with Woolsey and he said, "I've been ornery about oil for a long time." He describes himself as "ornery about coal, too, but basically for cleanliness reasons."
The oil issue is a deep national security matter as we fight "Islamic totalitarian political movements," which wield control of a vast proportion of the world's proven oil reserves. "Seventy-eight percent of the world's power reserves are in the hands of OPEC," said Woolsey, adding, "Once oil gets back to $125 per barrel, about half of the world's wealth will be in the hands of OPEC."
"We have been attacked, as an enemy, by a secular and totalitarian group rooted in one of the world's great religions."
"It's very hard in this First Amendment country," where "we don't like telling people about religion," and "generally do a good job of respecting peoples' right to believe what they want." He added that in some cases, "Political correctness is as much an enemy."
"OPEC is withholding oil," he said, adding, "We have a situation where we cannot change this by 'Drill, baby, drill.' It costs the Saudis $1.50 per barrel to lift oil from the ground. How in God's name can we turn that around by drilling in the U.S.?"
Woolsey said it costs the U.S. "tens of dollars" to lift oil from the ground.
Woolsey's commitment to cleantech runs deep. He was one of the earliest advocates for the technology that would become the Tesla electric vehicle and he helped push for the funding of that company by Vantage Point Venture Partners. Woolsey is now a partner at Lux Capital where he focuses on energy technology. Woolsey is also a board member on the Kuokoa effort to free Hawaii from fossil fuels.
Hawaii depends on oil, not only for transportation, but for power as well. "Oil is everything in Hawaii" and "This is the place to start. Hawaii could be the place where OPEC's monopoly can meet its match."
(Disclosure: the author has an interest in Kuokoa Inc.)