Particularly since gas prices hovered near $4.00 per gallon last summer it has been true that ENERGY ISSUES have been making for strange bedfellows. Traditionally the purview of the left, in the last few years there has been a greater outcry within the Defense community about the deleterious effects of America’s dependence on foreign oil.
Reflecting the military’s understanding of the national security implications, in the last few years we’ve seen the Defense Science Board Task Force Report on DOD Energy Strategy, two Center for Naval Analysis reports—National Security and Threat of Climate Change and Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security — and the 2008 Joint Operating Environment Challenges and Implications for the Future Joint Force.
These documents make the case in no uncertain terms that the use of fossil fuels (particularly oil from antagonistic foreign states) and our national electrical infrastructure are issue of critical national security. From the latter CNA report:
• US dependence on oil weakens international leverage, undermines foreign policy objectives, and entangles America with unstable or hostile regimes.
• Inefficient use and overreliance on oil burdens the military, undermines combat effectiveness, and exacts a huge price tag—in dollars and lives.
• US dependence on fossil fuels undermines economic stability, which is critical to national security.
• A fragile domestic electricity grid makes our domestic military installations, and their critical infrastructure, unnecessarily vulnerable to incident, whether deliberate or accidental.
Yesterday the US House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey Climate Change legislation. There is much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over this development. The debate is not indicative of bad science. The debate is indicative of bad politics.
I haven’t got the first clue whether or not increasing global temperatures are caused by human activity. Global temperatures are getting warmer. There’s little debate on that. Rather, the debate centers on the cause and even within the scientific community there seems to be significant variance in opinion on this matter. There are many people with lots of letters after their names that can’t come to any consensus. For me to weigh in on the science of the issue would be preposterous in the extreme (I might as well start telling you that child-birth is painless because it didn’t hurt ME). Yet, Americans around the country are doing just that—flaunting their ignorance by parroting only the scientists they choose to believe without any real understanding of the science. Their opinions have more to do with the radio station they listen to and less to do with an understanding of the issues.
Those very same dynamics are at work in our Congress. Georgia Republican Paul Broun said that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” The debate on this legislation has become a referendum on the science of climate change and not about the broader issue of changing America’s energy paradigm. Our problems with electricity and fuel can be discussed in terms of terrorism, homeland security, the economy, jobs, national defense, foreign policy, American exceptionalism, innovation, family values, immigration, and national security. These are all bedrocks of the Republican platform. And I never mentioned the weather.
The debate on the science behind Waxman-Markey dumbs down any discussion on America’s future. Because America’s security and economic future is dependent on the changes we make to our understanding and use of electricity and fuel.
Republicans have long been seen as the Party of the US military yet Republican politicians still eschew the ideological consensus that is forming within the Pentagon—that change (nay, progress) must come in America’s energy appetite.
If the Republicans would put on their “big-boy panties” for a minute the buffoonery on the House floor might have been replaced with a vibrant, educated, paradigm-shifting discussion on why every American citizen needs to bear some of the burden in changing the way we power our lives. Democrats could have talked about the weather. Republicans could have talked about our sons and daughters dying on the fields of battle to ensure the supply of fuel for America’s SUVs with the yellow “Support Our Troops” ribbon on the rear window.
There are some who don’t believe Waxman-Markey goes far enough. No one believes the bill is perfect; it’s not even close. If anyone unhappy with the bill is waiting for something perfect, forget it. For the Congress to create, in its first attempt, a bill that was effective and without fault would take a miracle of biblical proportions. This will simply be step one. Lessons will be learned and future amendments and legislation will address Waxman-Markey’s shortcomings. Progress will be incremental. But it does represent progress in changing the way Americans view fuel and electricity.
I support Waxman-Markey. Not because I believe in the human contribution to climate change, but because I believe that making adjustments to the way Americans view and use energy is the common thread in keeping America the greatest nation on earth for the next century.