Oil politics:

Saudi Arabia is the source of only 15 per cent of America’s imported oil. But since oil is an interchangeable commodity in world markets, every barrel America imports helps push up the prices received by Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. America imports well over half of the oil it consumes, and more than half of US consumption is in the form of motor vehicle fuels. Thanks to America’s gas guzzlers, this has been an extremely profitable year for oil exporters.

The Saudi government, itself under assault from Al Qaeda, is not in the business of directly financing terrorism, and since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it has responded to American pressure. But what it still pays for is a worldwide network of mosques, schools and Islamic centers that proselytize the intolerant Wahhabi variant of Islam that is dominant in Saudi Arabia. For years, Saudi Arabian oil money bankrolled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and provided financial support to Pakistan’s government.

The more copiously that oil money flows, the less pressure a divided Saudi royal family feels to undertake the kind of difficult political and economic reforms that might conceivably break the nexus between oil and terror. The Saudi syndrome is not the only reason Americans need to get much more serious about energy conservation. But it is a powerfully compelling one. — The New York Times