National Security, Renewable Energy Linked

John Davis

A group of former military leaders has made a call for more use of renewable energy in today’s military as a way to help national security. During an event sponsored by Operation Free, a coalition of veterans advocating for renewable energy, former members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps made their pitches for the military’s clean energy initiatives.

Retired U.S. Army Colonel Dan Nolan told the panel, entitled “Clean Energy & the Nation’s Security: A Military Call for Action,” that the dependence on a sole energy source for transportation, fossil fuels, makes the military vulnerable. “Options have to be explored, because when you have only one option, you have no options.”

Norm Seip, a retired Air Force three-star general, echoed Nolan’s sentiment in a line I heard many times in my days in the Air Force: Flexibility is the key to airpower. And he contends that reliance on oil, particularly from foreign sources that might not be too friendly to the U.S., costs us dollars and lives. He says having to write letters to parents whose sons and daughters have been killed hauling fossil fuels to the battle is heartbreaking. And it’s costing this country too much money. “When the price of oil goes up by $10 a barrel, it becomes a $1.3 billion bill for the [Department of Defense],” he said. And he modified the earlier saying to “flexibility is the key to energy security.”

Former Rear Admiral Larry Baucom said that extra cost for fuel comes out of other areas of military readiness, because the operations tempo does not decrease, and the budget will certainly not be getting bigger. “We’re going to have to do things better, smarter, faster and cheaper.”

Stephen Cheney, a retired Marine Corps general, said we need to wean the military and the U.S. in general off of foreign oil. “We need to fuel America’s fleet with made in America fuel. It’s America’s fleet, America’s fuels, made by American farmers,” he said. Cheney also defended the high initial costs of the military’s investment in biofuels, which has some estimates right now at $26 a gallon explaining that initial research and development in any system is always more expensive upfront but for the military should be cost competitive with oil-based products in a few years.