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WASHINGTON -- The United States must maintain "constructive relationships" with oil-producing countries for its own prosperity, said the head of petroleum giant ExxonMobil Corp., according to the Associated Press.
"We do not have the resource base to be energy independent," ExxonMobil chairman Lee R. Raymond said in a speech in which he outlined some of what he called the "hard truths" about global energy markets.
Raymond, who runs the world's largest publicly traded oil company, said that while other countries, including Russia, will play a growing role in supplying oil to the world, the Middle East will remain the center of supply because it holds as much as half of the world's oil reserves.
"We simply cannot avoid significant reliance on oil and gas from the Middle East because the world's supply pool (of oil) is highly dependent upon the Middle East," Raymond said in a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The fact that the United States and the rest of the world will have to depend increasingly on the Middle East for oil and natural gas "is not a matter of ideology or politics," he said. "It is simply inevitable."
Raymond scoffed at suggestions -- heard commonly among politicians in Washington -- of energy independence.
"We periodically hear calls for U.S. energy independence as if this were a real option," he said. "The fact is, the United States is a part of the world energy market and we must participate and compete in that market."
At a time when relations with some major oil producers such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela are strained, Raymond said the United States must work to "maintain appropriate and constructive relationships with oil-rich countries in the future. They will be very important for our prosperity and our security."
Responding to a question from the audience about the recent terrorist attacks that killed oil workers in Saudi Arabia, Raymond said they "obviously give us a lot of pause" because ExxonMobil has workers and investments in petrochemical plants and refineries in that country.
"We're going through a difficult patch right now ... and may for some time," he said.