As a U.S. Army veteran I am used to dealing with the military, an organization that, by necessity, takes swift and decisive action when necessary, despite the fact that many see it as a conservative organization that is resistant and slow to change. In Washington, I am becoming used to dealing with another organization that is much more conservative and even more resistant and slower: the United States Senate. I am proud to say that the U.S. military is once again taking decisive action on energy independence and security, as well as addressing the military repercussions of climate change. The military is taking action where the United States Congress will not.
On July 27 I attended the White House Forum on Energy Security along with a group of veterans from Operation Free, a nationwide coalition of military veterans from all eras and ranging from Privates and Airmen to Generals and Admirals – all of whom support the goal of energy independence, security, and addressing the national security repercussions of climate change.
We have collectively been touring and speaking throughout the country and in Washington, D.C. in support of breaking our dependence on largely foreign oil and pushing Congress to take real steps toward a comprehensive clean energy climate plan. We have come to support the American Power Act developed through a bipartisan effort by Senators John Kerry and Lindsey Graham with Senator Joseph Lieberman and cooperation from the White House.
July 27 was supposed to be the day that the Senate finally took real action on the issue we have all been working hard for over the past year. It didn’t happen. As we all got on airplanes throughout the country in high spirits, something was happening on Capitol Hill: nothing.
By the time we hit ground in Washington, D.C. we learned that everything had changed. The Senate didn’t have the sixty votes needed to proceed to an up-or-down vote on the bill. We went to the Hill again to meet with fence-sitting Senators and their staff. The opinion we encountered there was disappointing, but not surprising: we need to do something about the issues of energy security, energy independence, and climate change, but we’re not going to do anything now.
Some, echoing Republican sentiment, said the issue hadn’t been discussed enough yet, that the Senate process of debate and hearings needs to be completed, that it would force them to choose ‘winners and losers’ and they are not ready to do that.
Hadn’t been discussed enough? We’ve been talking about energy security and independence since the 1970s. Other countries are taking action while we are being left behind. The CIA includes repercussions of climate change and our dependence on foreign fossil energy in its assessments. The State Department does as well.
Now the U.S. military is taking serious steps to address the issue. It devoted an entire section of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report (p. 84) to responding to climate change issues. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has expressed a clear vision of a force independent of fossil fuels. The military is taking action by reducing the use of fossil fuels, researching the use of alternative sources, and increasing the efficiency of its energy use, whether on battlefield outposts in Afghanistan or home installations in Texas. Speakers from each branch of the U.S. military have discussed similar opinions, expressing that action on this issue shouldn’t be taken for political reasons, but for security reasons. The money we pay for oil goes to regimes opposed to our interests. The cost of procuring, transporting, and securing that fuel is extreme, in dollars and to the lives of our troops.
This contrasts greatly with the attitude of too many Senators, who continue to choose politics over security. The U.S. Congress trusts the military and veterans on other security issues. Energy independence, energy security, and planning for the possible consequences of climate change are national security issues. The military is taking action, even if Congress won’t. If they’ll listen on other national security issues, let’s hope they’ll trust the military when it comes to a comprehensive clean energy climate plan that makes us energy independent.
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