Defending the Climate Against Dirty Fuels

"The U.S. should not pursue energy options inconsistent with the national response to climate change."

That is the sober -- and welcome -- conclusion of a new report by the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), entitled Powering America's Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security.

The report, written by a dozen retired generals and admirals, explores the national security implications of America's energy policy choices.  It is a follow-up to CNA's groundbreaking 2007 report National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, which found that "climate change, national security, and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges."

This new report focuses on the following: security risks inherent in our current energy posture; energy choices the nation can make to enhance our national security; the impact of climate change on our energy choices and our national security; and the role the Department of Defense can play in the nation's approach to energy security and climate change.

To summarize, the report's "Roadmap for Energy Security" makes the following recommendations:

  • Priority 1: Energy security and climate change goals should be clearly integrated into national security and military planning processes.
  • Priority 2: DoD should design and deploy systems to reduce the burden that inefficient energy use places on our troops as they engage overseas.
  • Priority 3: DoD should understand its use of energy at all levels of operations. DoD should know its carbon bootprint.
  • Priority 4: DoD should transform its use of energy at installations through aggressive pursuit of energy efficiency, smart grid technologies, and electrification of its vehicle fleet.
  • Priority 5: DoD should expand the adoption of distributed and renewable energy generation at its installations.
  • Priority 6: DoD should transform its longterm operational energy posture through investments in low-carbon liquid fuels that satisfy military performance requirements.

Given the U.S. military's push for unsustainable high-carbon fuel alternatives during the Bush administration -- most notably the Air Force's quixotic quest for liquid coal -- it is refreshing and reassuring to see that "green" no longer just applies to the color of our warriors' uniforms. 

Since global warming poses a direct threat to America's national security it makes perfect sense to avoid jumping from the frying pan into the fire via dirty fuels that only exacerbate the climate crisis.  Rather than wasting tax dollars on dirty, costly, and unsafe technoligies like tar sands, oil shale, and liquid coal, our nation should be harnessing our greatest resource -- our American ingenuity -- to create a secure energy future based on never-ending supplies of energy like wind, solar, and geothermal that will keep the air we breathe clean, the water we drink safe and our country prosperous.

With CNA's expert analysis, and the climate advocacy of a host of old and new veterans groups and security hawks, the voice of our military leaders matters more than ever.  We salute these allies for engaging with us to protect the planet and we welcome them to the fight against dirty fuels.