National Security Network

This is an opportunity to cut dependence on oil imports

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News The News Tribune 25 July 2010

Energy Energy

It will take our country years to fully recover from the tragic oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But we can prevent even bigger tragedies by learning from the crisis and finally taking action to reduce our dependence on oil – an inherently unreliable and dangerous source of energy.

Today, we are forced to either buy oil from countries that are hostile to our values, or push the boundaries of technology and safety to pump it from miles below the sea floor. The safe and easy oil has already been pumped.

In the coming weeks, our elected officials in Washington can move America toward cleaner, safer energy choices. U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington have critical roles to play in leading the Senate to deliver comprehensive action on clean energy and climate.

The most recent catastrophe in the Gulf Coast is a tragic reminder, but the truth has been known for decades: Oil dependence and climate change pose grave dangers to our economy and to our national security. Legislation has been in the works for more than a year, but senators now faces the moment of truth: Will they stand up to the fossil fuel lobby and deliver?

Recently, an unprecedented 33 retired generals and admirals called for congressional action on climate and energy policy, saying that energy and America’s strength are inextricably linked. We must power our economy, defend our nation and project strength around the world. Yet, today, we depend on a supply chain thousands of miles long and are too often forced to pay and protect the very nations that harbor and support our most dangerous enemies.

We do this at the risk of our own economic growth, strangling energy innovation at home as we transfer massive amounts of wealth to other parts of the world. Iran makes billions on the global oil market; every day we delay is a lost chance to deprive that country of up to $100 million in oil profits.

With more than 550 years combined of military experience, we are very aware of the real risks and dangers of our current national energy plan. Yet the deadly flow of oil money is not the only threat posed by a shortsighted energy policy. Climate disruption – and the floods, droughts, famines and crop failures caused by it – has a destabilizing impact on nations around the world.

Governments fail, refugees search for water and conflicts break out. It is in that chaotic vacuum that extremist groups find both safe haven and recruiting targets. From Sudan and Somalia to Yemen and Afghanistan, climate changes are making the world a more dangerous place, putting future generations of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in jeopardy.

That’s why the military is leading on this issue; it is time for the Senate to join.

Ending our oil dependence is about more than good stewardship of our environment; it’s about taking a broad view of American security and strength. Requiring carbon pollution reductions will mean new markets for clean energy, creating millions of jobs in the growth industries of the 21st century and taking control of our energy future. It will allow us to regain the competitive edge in the growing clean energy economy, rather than standing on the sidelines as China, Europe, Japan and India eclipse our economic leadership.

Economic strength is the foundation for national and global security. Partisan delay and political positioning have no place when our security is on the line.

The debate on clean energy and American power is heating up. While the debate will surely be spirited, one thing will remain true: It takes leadership to propose a viable solution. Attacks, delays and political calculation will not solve our problems. Nor will allowing lobbyists to influence outcomes in favor of big oil.

Leadership, like that of Murray and Cantwell, means taking action to solve our biggest problems, and that is exactly what we must do with energy.

Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton served in the Army for 33 years and lives on Fox Island. Commander James Marvin served as a Navy SEAL for 20 years.