Asked what was the single biggest threat to America's long-term national security, Ret. Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn offers three:
energy, energy," McGinn said. "You can't have a strong defense and a
lousy economy, and there is an inextricable link between economic
vibrancy and energy policy."
McGinn came to Maine last week to drum up support for a new national
energy policy, but comes to the debate from a different angle than we
are used to seeing.
Instead of the usual argument between environmental and business
concerns, McGinn and the group Partnership for a Secure America is
promoting the need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels as an issue
of national security. It is a point of view that stakes out some middle
ground in a policy fight where middle ground has been scarce and should
be taken into account as energy measures move through Congress.
McGinn makes the following points:
Our dependence on foreign oil is an immense vulnerability. It causes
us to send $1 billion a day out of our economy, much of it going to
countries that supply our enemies. McGinn cites intelligence reports
that trace petro-dollars received by Iran used to buy IED components
that were used against our troops in Iraq.
Protecting our access to oil forces us to send service men and women
into harm's way. A local event, say an Iranian blockade of the Straits
of Hormuz, could shut off 30 percent of the world's oil and put our
economy into a tailspin. A natural disaster, like a hurricane in the
Gulf of Mexico, could be equally disastrous.
CALL TO ACTION
And the worldwide results of climate change would likely create
political instability and humanitarian disasters in other countries
that would require more commitment of our armed forces.
McGinn says this is a call for action, and he is not patient with the usual objections.
Wouldn't discouraging the use of fossil fuels amount to a tax that
would be a drag on the economy? McGinn says there would be nothing new
about that. "We are already paying the price, as the events in the Gulf
of Mexico show," he said. "People say they want BP to pay for the
cleanup, but where does BP get its money? They get it from us."
The Partnership for a Secure America's tour takes place as several
climate bills are circulating in Washington. Last year the House passed
an economy-wide cap on carbon emissions, in which polluters could buy
and trade allowances. Money raised would be used to invest in
alternative energy and transportation programs.
A similar bill, sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe
Lieberman, I-Conn., is in the Senate. A competing measure sponsored by
Sens. Susan Collins
and Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, would send most of the money raised
by selling allowances to consumers, to offset the higher cost of power.
Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe, would address emissions from the utility sector only, which is responsible for about 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
WHAT IT WILL TAKE
The Partnership for Secure America is not taking any position on any
of the pieces of legislation, but McGinn is clear about what a good
bill should contain.
It should put a price on carbon, allowing market forces to steer users away from carbon-based fuels toward green energy sources.
It should also provide energy independence, by increasing investment
in domestically produced power sources, which should include
renewables, biofuels and nuclear power.
And it should impose strong energy efficiency standards that will
reduce demand for energy. That will require Congress to work with the
regulatory agencies to develop and enforce standards that will make a
The nature of the threat could not be more evident. What's missing,
McGinn said, is a commitment to act from members of Congress.
"Our elected leaders have lost a sense of courage," he said.
Coming from Adm. McGinn, that is a call to action. Let's hope our elected officials are up to the challenge.