When President Barack Obama visited Mount Desert Island last
weekend, we hope he had time to listen to Maine citizens and learn what
we learned. Earlier this month, we had the privilege to travel to your
magnificent state and meet with a broad spectrum of community leaders
in Bangor. The message was loud and clear: Energy business as usual is
not an option for Maine or for our country.
Eighty percent of Maine’s homes are heated with oil. When the global
price of oil skyrocketed in 2008, the price shock was felt deeply by
Mainers. Given declining oil supply and increasing demand, these kinds
of price shocks will continue to plague Maine and our country until we
reduce our dependence on oil.
U.S. Senate leaders are considering taking up energy and climate
legislation before their August recess. As a retired admiral, who
co-chairs the CNA Military Advisory Board of high-ranking military
leaders, and as director of the bipartisan Partnership for a Secure
America, we have spent our careers focused on protecting the United
States. At this moment, our fossil fuel dependence poses a threat to
our national security — economically, militarily and diplomatically. In
Maine and around the country, community leaders agree that we must take
action now to transition to a clean and sustainable energy economy.
2008, we shipped $386 billion overseas to import oil. When our thirst
for oil requires placing billions in the hands of regimes hostile to
us, it hampers foreign policy decision-making, reduces America’s
leverage internationally, and, paradoxically, results in funding both
sides of the global fight against terrorism.
Moreover, our fossil fuel addiction hastens climate change, causing
increased shortages of food, water and arable land worldwide, which our
military leaders have identified as a key national security threat
multiplier. Such economic and resource degradation destabilizes fragile
countries, leads to more armed conflict and humanitarian crises, and
ultimately increases pressure to send American troops into harm’s way.
Producing our own fossil fuels to meet our nation’s needs isn’t the
solution. The U.S. consumes 25 percent of the oil produced in the world
each year, while only controlling 3 percent of known reserves. We
cannot drill ourselves out of the national security problems caused by
oil dependence. And as the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico illustrates,
our oil consumption comes with costs to our environment and to the
people who rely on it for their livelihoods.
It is also clear that our pattern of energy use is responsible, in
large part, for our economic situation today. Over the last few decades
fossil fuel prices have fluctuated wildly, in large part because of
increasing demand and decreasing supply. Oil has jumped as high as $140
a barrel — sending prices at the pump upwards of $4 a gallon for
gasoline at times.
Meanwhile, the global market potential for clean energy technologies
is more than $180 billion annually, according to government estimates.
China is spending $12.6 million every hour on clean energy investments,
leading the world in production of wind turbines and solar panels, and
coming on strong in advanced vehicle and battery technologies. If we
don’t move quickly to capture this market, others will.
No doubt, it seems daunting to tackle these problems as the U.S.
tries to emerge from its worst economic crisis in decades. But moving
to a clean-energy future is a critical part of the solution — charting
a path of economic opportunity that will result in a more secure,
sustainable future for our nation. And from our recent visit to Maine,
it is clear that the state is well-positioned to lead in shaping
America’s future energy use. From the pace-setting renewable portfolio
standard, to participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,
to the carbon reduction commitments of the naval shipyard Bath Iron
Works, Maine has shown real leadership in capturing the economic
opportunity promised by clean energy development.
National security leaders from both political parties know we cannot
afford the cost of inaction — or worse, meaningless action — on our
current energy posture. America must take bold, decisive action to
reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. By moving swiftly to promote
clean energy development and climate stability, the state whose
“Dirigo” motto means “I lead” can help lead this country’s transition
into its next era of sustained security and prosperity.
Dennis McGinn, a retired Navy vice admiral, is a member of the
Military Advisory Board of CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis
organization. Joy Drucker is executive director of the Partnership for
a Secure America.