WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 29 -- Iraq lost an estimated $16 billion of potential oil export revenues from January 2004 to March 2006 because of insurgent attacks, criminal activity, and aging and poorly maintained infrastructure, an audit report by the US special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction said.
"In addition to lost export revenues, Iraq is paying billions of dollars to import refined petroleum products to support the consumption needs of its citizens," Stuart W. Bowen Jr. said in the Sept. 27 report.
Attacks against Iraq's oil and electric power systems ebbed and flowed during that time period, Bowen said. Iraq's oil, electricity, and defense ministries combine to protect the systems and have varying capabilities, he said.
Security, however, is only one factor in Iraq's protection of its energy infrastructure, Bowen maintained.
"While much attention has been focused on insurgent attacks, it must be recognized that even if attacks ceased, other factors, such as criminal activity and the effect of aging and poorly maintained infrastructure on operating capability, would continue to affect oil exports and the availability of electricity," he said.
He noted that Iraq's oil exports remained below established targets and electric power generation was far below demand when there were few insurgent attacks from late April to early June of this year.
"Further, once damage or disruptions occur, it is critical that it be repaired quickly, but more needs to be done to enhance rapid repair capability," Bowen said.
Bowen said the US government has done much over the past year to help make the Iraqi infrastructure security forces more capable, as well as developing initiatives both to protect the country's energy infrastructure and to facilitate transition of that responsibility to Iraq's government.
"The Iraqi government has much to do if it is to implement US proposals as well as proposals put forth by its ministries. Progress in acting on them has been slow, in part due to the lack of a permanent government and in part [due] to the limited initiative of some Iraqi ministries. Now that there is a permanent government in place, it must take bold action," Bowen said.
He said Iraq's new government is pursuing energy improvement initiatives, including steps to increase the country's oil exports. "The challenge for the United States is to help the Iraqi government move forward" to undertake these tasks, Bowen said.
One way for the US government to do this is to focus congressional attention on what Iraq's new government needs to do to protect and improve the country's energy infrastructure, he suggested.
Bowen said that current reports to Congress by the departments of State and Defense contain only general descriptions of progress in Iraq instead of specific information on actions that Iraq's government should take to enhance energy infrastructure integrity and progress it is making in those actions.
Contact Nick Snow at [email protected].