BANGOR, Maine — In a world awash with concern about climate change
and a country embroiled in a debate about its energy policy, retired
U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn says he and others in his
organization bring an important component to the conversation.
“With all due humility, we bring credibility,” said McGinn, vice
chairman of the CNA Military Advisory Board, an energy and climate
change think tank composed of retired officers from the Army, Navy, Air
Force and Marines.
The advisory board has written and released two reports for a
nonprofit research organization in Alexandria, Va., called CNA. The
reports examined the issues of climate change and U.S. energy policy
from the perspective of their threats to national security.
who visited with the Bangor Daily News Editorial Board on Thursday
during a speaking tour through Maine, said the country’s reliance on
oil — about 97 percent of which comes from foreign countries — puts it
at risk of social and economic disaster on par with some of the world’s
worst calamities. Some of those risks have become reality, such as the
British Petroleum oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, which is
spewing millions of gallons of oil into the ocean and onto the shores
of the Gulf Coast.
“BP isn’t doing that stuff because no one wants to buy that oil,”
said McGinn, whose tour comes amid an intense debate in Congress over a
controversial climate and energy bill. “Our addiction to oil is what’s
causing them to go ever more deeper and riskier.”
Another Hurricane Katrina-scale storm or a successful attack on oil
apparatus in the Middle East could cause an oil price spike that would
spurn economic and social disaster across the United States and the
world. Even the United States’ ability to defend itself or conduct
operations overseas are too dependent on oil, said McGinn, who
estimated that at $2.50 gallon of oil for a Humvee in a remote part of
Afghanistan costs the Department of Defense approximately $400 by the
time it’s transported under heavy guard to troops in the field.
“We are too dependent on convoys and fuel,” said McGinn, who along
with many other posts commanded the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet during his
35-year military career. “We are just tethered to our fuel lines and
our need to protect the fuel.”
That problem could be exacerbated if climate change causes some of
the wide-scale catastrophes that many scientists — or as McGinn puts
it, “every credible scientist and engineer” — predict.
“If you want to get a sense of what the future could be like, think
about widespread crop failure in Mexico or Central America,” he said.
“That would mean a hell of a lot more mission for our military.”
McGinn said the Military Advisory Board’s role is to illustrate the
problem, but that it’s Congress’ problem to solve. Asked what changes
in energy policy could make a difference, he suggested “putting some
sort of price” on carbon emissions.
The issue of carbon pricing and whom it would affect has been at the
center of the debate over the congressional energy bill, and a
touchstone of controversy in the overall debate about the prevalence of
McGinn said the country also needs to voice a clear commitment to
developing alternative and renewable fuel sources, which he said would
spark a multibillion-dollar flow of research-and-development money.
“We’ve got technology that is ready to go,” he said. “What is
lacking is policy passed by the United States Congress that creates
McGinn said he recognizes that most people gauge the success or
failure of the country’s energy policy by the price they pay for
gasoline or heating oil. But he suggested that’s a faulty way to look
at the problem because it ignores the other costs of our dependence on
oil, such as pollution in the environment and impacts on our health.
“If you factor in the externalities, we are probably paying more
like $7 or $8 a gallon,” said McGinn. “We just don’t know it, but those
are very real dollars.”