September 26th, 2008
12:01 PM ET

In the new century: Energy Security IS National Security

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/26/art.gaspump.jpg]
Editor's Note: Green For All is an environmental advocacy organization dedicated to building an inclusive green economy; advocating for job creation, job training, and entrepreneurial opportunities in the emerging green economy.

Van Jones
author, The Green Collar Economy:
How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems

Tonight the contenders for the U.S. presidency are scheduled to debate U.S. foreign policy. Maybe they will show up; maybe they won’t. But if they do come, on their way to the debate site, they literally will drive past the biggest threat to our national security.

To see the biggest gun aimed at the heads of the American people, Senators Obama and McCain need look no farther than the local gas station.

Both candidates need to take up the topic of energy security tonight. The days are past when candidates concerned about protecting America could focus primarily on threats from overseas – whether those dangers came from terror cells or nuclear missiles.

Today, our failed and foolish domestic energy strategy is at the core of all our perils – from an over-extended U.S. military, to our reckless reliance on petro-dictatorships, to the looming threat of climate chaos.

Energy security will be – in fact, must be – the centerpiece of any effective and coherent national security plan for the United States. In the new century: energy security IS national security.

First of all, our continued reliance on oil is accelerating to break our military. To protect the flow of petroleum from unstable regions, we are expending tremendous military resources all over the world. As long as we are fueling cars in the mid-west with black goo from the Middle East, we will continue to spend billions to defend those supply lines. Our military right now is at the breaking point, acting as the world’s traffic cop for petroleum distribution while fighting two wars. This situation cannot go on indefinitely.

Some say the answer is American energy independence. They are right. But achieving this end is harder than the “drill, drill, drill” crowd makes it sound. Simple math dictates that no amount of domestic drilling can ever free us.

Even conservative Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens knows this. He is spending $50 million of his own money to tell America the truth: we have three percent of the world's oil reserves, but we use 25 percent of the world's oil.

So as long as oil remains the centerpiece of our energy strategy, the numbers show irrefutably that we will never be energy independent. We will always be shipping vast quantities of the stuff – with all the troubles that come along with that. Therefore, it is more accurate to say that the problem is not our reliance on “overseas oil” or “foreign oil.” The problem is our reliance on the outdated oil – period.

This is especially true when one factors in the threat posed by climate disruption, which if driven by greenhouse gasses from carbon-based fuel like oil. Let’s not forget: the past 12 months have brought a cascade of extreme weather events. Historic floods left Iowa and Arkansas underwater. California’s fire season has become a year-round affair. A tornado tore up downtown Atlanta – to say nothing of the damage wrought by Hurricanes Ike and Gustav. To some, Al Gore’s dire climate predictions appear to be coming true.

Carbon-based fuels are last century’s technology. We can no longer afford to rely on a planet cooking, military stretching, budget-busting strategy to power our machines and our economy.

There is no simply no way to drill and burn our way out of our problem. For the sake of national security, we will have to invent and invest our way out.

Fortunately, there is a precedent for this. In the last century, we built a national highway system, as a national security measure to be able to move material and people around in the event of an invasion. Today, we must build a clean energy grid, which will let us move clean energy electrons around to end the invasion of our lives by the last-century’s pollution-based technologies.

We already have a Saudi Arabia of wind energy in the middle of the United States. We already have another potential Saudi Arabia in our solar corridor, which runs through the deserts of the west. What we lack is a national smart grid that would let us efficiently pipe all the clean energy from our power centers to our population centers. Inventing and deploying the technologies for an American smart grid should be the number one national security priority of the next administration.

Today, we are at a crossroads. We face a choice: our young men and women can either wear green fatigues overseas, or they can wear green hard hats at home. They can pick up weapons to destroy other countries, or they can pick up tools to rebuild and repower this one.

From a geopolitical, economic and climate perspective, our national security demands that we achieve TRUE energy independence. That means relying upon the wind that blows across our own plains, the sun that shines in our own skies, the geothermal energy that boils beneath our feet, the hyper-conductive power lines that we install with our own hands, the next generation bio-fuels we grow on our own lands, the buildings we retrofit and weatherize with our own tools, the super-batteries that we invent in our own labs and the new technologies that we build in our own factories.

That is a formula for true energy independence. Such an approach would let us redeploy our overseas military assets more intelligently, grow our economy and head off climate change.

Let’s never forget: America’s number one resource is not oil. It is our people. If we put them to work – if we give them the tools, the training and the technology to reboot, retrofit and repower America – then our future is safe and bright.

And if he is willing to lead us toward this outcome, the next president will enjoy an added benefit: re-election security.

Filed under: Planet in Peril • Raw Politics
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Jim

    I'm poor & I drive a 1974 pick up truck Why? 1. No Smog,2.Registration $43.00 a year,3. Insurance- $300.00 a year ,4. cost of truck-$1.00 Now when you can get me a car that is as cheap as that I'll think about getting one. Yes to fill both tanks cost me $80.00
    & I can go places you wouldn't dare take one of these worthless new cars- I live in the middle of nowhere & I cannot afford taking a car to a rocket scientist if the computer goes out let alone afford one in the first place & if you think I'm going to use a credit card You need your head examined. & there is no cell phone coverage . I'll keep what I have & WOE unto the Buerocrate that trys to take it from me.

    September 26, 2008 at 8:46 pm |
  2. ann

    mccain said he know where osama ben ladin is and if elected he will get him i want to know how he can keep information from his country ,from the CIA,FBI, ana internal is he a teriost him self he need to be investigated .if he knows and not telling anyone. signed richmond,VA

    September 26, 2008 at 6:38 pm |
  3. Surafel Melaku

    Every thing is a national security directly or indirectly.

    September 26, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  4. GF, Los Angeles

    Siince Palin was against protecting the polar bears and placing them in endangered status – I know I sure won't be voting for McCain in the event he becomes incapacitated. Palin has complete disregard for the environment with wanting to drill up in Alaska as well. If this country is to move forward in energy independence – it would be better off with Obama.

    September 26, 2008 at 3:10 pm |
  5. david tidaback

    i remember the oil embargo during the carter years... you couldnt find a volkswagon on the lot... but the government stepped in... through tax breaks i was encouraged to make my house more effecient... upgrade windows, add insulation, convert the fuel oil boiler to natural gas... incorporate passive solar power... the works... it all helped...

    today... give me a tax incentive to convert my car to compressed natural gas... make it a national goal... like going to the moon... in 5 years convert 90% of the vehicles on the road... give tax breaks to encourage innovative alternate fuel sources research... become the world leader in green technology... we can do it... we are smart... we are americans... our parents saved the world during WWII... we can do it again... dont wait for others to take the lead...

    just my 2 cents worth... thanks for listening...

    September 26, 2008 at 3:05 pm |
  6. Camina T. in Arroyo Grande CA

    Solar harvest is the future. It should already be in full swing out West but is not yet. As reported in the New York Times on Wed this week Californians are actually complaining about the few large solar farms going up near their back yards. I am embarassed. California can and should be very, very, very,solar electric. Many of the states in the Western Climate Initative have the space and sun to generate power for themselves and donate to the national grid. So much oil production in Hurricane alley disrupted is a wake up call. There is sun and space for solar electric in the southern states also. Solar power is actually more in use today in not so sunny GERMANY. Lets go USA! GO SOLAR!

    September 26, 2008 at 2:59 pm |
  7. Kent, Illinois

    It's too bad that so many are in the pockets of the oil industry. I just saw an article that auto makers are being bailed out also. They are in the mess that they made. We should all be driving electric cars right now.........but, auto makers are in the pockets of oil companies also. And, we are foolish enough to allow Bush to give them money.......Lol..

    September 26, 2008 at 2:57 pm |
  8. Susan


    If we would work harder on becoming energy independent, we would not have to deal with the largest tranfer of wealth from our country to often hostile governments. The word bailout would not even be in our
    minds. History has shown us that as soon a energy prices start rising that the economic decline is not far behind.

    We will never be able to get rid of all fossil fuels, but must expand our use of many alternative forms of energy. We must become good stewards of plant earth. We also have to address the consumption side of the energy issue also.


    September 26, 2008 at 2:20 pm |
  9. Michael

    Indeed, the smart grid is of paramount importance to America, if we aspire to improve reliability, lower costs, accelerate renewables, and open the door to plug-in electric vehicles. However, most of the electric grid infrastructure is regulated by states, rather than the feds, making it truly an issue that requires bully pulpit leadership, bipartisan cooperation, and state-federal collaboration.

    September 26, 2008 at 1:42 pm |
  10. nate

    I agree with your comment that energy is certainly a top level National Security issue. Both candidates need to provide a specific detail including an estimated time table when elected into office on how they are going to deal with this issue. They also must take into consideration and explain how there decisions may impact our current economic state and budget deficit.

    September 26, 2008 at 1:27 pm |
  11. Chris Columbus

    This is it . . . the crux of the US economy hinges on the energy climate era! Our reliance on foreign oil and our lack of focus on a nationalized power policy has muddled our path to success. Washingon has failed to provide the catalyst for renewable clean energy and my fear is that we will never catch up with the EU who acted over 10 years ago to reprioritize their national interest.

    My vote in November will be decided on which candidate plans to focus on the energy climate era.

    September 26, 2008 at 12:33 pm |
  12. Joe Francella

    When are our wonderful elected officials in Washington DC going to admit that they are the problem not the solution. THEY created this situation with their insightful laws and regulations, and now they want to fix the economic problems, they helped create, again.

    Why don't they just call a conference of the brightest business minds we have in this country like: Warren Buffet, Carl Ichon, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, T. Boon Pickens, Ross Perot, Steve Jobs and others and ask for their assistance in coming up with a business plan for the country.

    And when they're done solving this mess, maybe they could help us solve the federal budget deficit!!

    September 26, 2008 at 12:24 pm |
  13. Maureen / Newman, California

    The GOP does not even really believe in Global Warming. No wonder their answer to the energy problem is simply drill baby drill. Look what their ignorance has done to America.

    September 26, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  14. Annie Kate

    The use of solar energy may have become more viable with the discovery of a way to store excess solar energy for use when the sun goes down. MIT scientists recently released the results of their project in which they found an inexpensive, easy to install method of solar energy capture and reuse. It uses all renewable components and can be available for the general public in less than 10 years if people start to develop the mass produced practical application of this technology.

    The sun in one hour sends enough energy our way to power a large city for an entire year. I hope this research will find someone to develop it and market it because it will pay off for us in a lot less time than drilling will.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 26, 2008 at 12:16 pm |