Stick to the Agreement

I've been in the Foreign Service for 26 years. Despite Anthony Holmes' and American Foreign Service Association's claims to the contrary ("Dicey Diplomacy," March 15), the State Department has always had great difficulty filling positions at hardship posts, much less filling them with officers possessing the right skills and experience. When I was in Lagos, the economic counselor post, a Senior Foreign Service position, went empty for more than a year and was finally filled only by a double stretch (someone two grades below the level of the position). At the same time, there were no takers for the visa chief position in the consular section. In my experience, Lagos is not atypical.

Every Foreign Service officer signs a worldwide availability agreement. But unless the State Department gets better at enforcing those agreements, transformational diplomacy will mean that instead of having two vacant positions, Lagos will have four.

Daniel Keller
Caracas, Venezuela

Gas Tax Now

"Topping Off" (March 15) gives attention to the critical issue of oil and energy security. But your statement, "Few, if any, analysts believe the United States would be cut off from imports" simply isn't true.

In recent weeks, many analysts have noted that 40 percent of the world's oil exports go through the Straits of Hormuz, as tensions rise between Iran and the United States. The failed terrorist attack on a key oil installation in Saudi Arabia also caught analysts' attention. An airliner crashed into the right place in the Saudis' oil facilities could cut off 10 percent of world energy imports. Our frayed relations with Venezuela call another major exporter into question.

As frightening as these scenarios may be, they pale before the prospect of depletion. Oil decline due to depletion is inevitable, and many analysts think that the world oil peak will occur sooner rather than later.

Oil from the North Sea peaked in 1999 and has suffered double digit annual declines since then. Mexico's largest oil field entered decline last year, which threatens their ability to maintain oil exports. Production from the world's largest oil field in Saudi Arabia is being propped up by pumping in millions of gallons of water each day and is likely to enter decline soon. Global oil discoveries peaked in the early 1960s, and we have been burning more oil than we discover since the early 1980s. Many oil analysts believe that we are either already at peak or will be there in just a few years. Just Google "peak oil" to see the various predictions.

America should face the fact that oil supplies will be disrupted whether we like it or not. When oil production enters decline, prices will rise and we will ship our wealth off to the oil exporting nations. A smarter plan would be for us to raise taxes on oil now. This would give us an incentive to reduce consumption and develop alternatives. It would allow us to reduce both our trade and budget.

Carl Henn
Rockville, Md.
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