Preface. In this 2010 House of Representatives hearing, General Wesley Clark foresaw in 1973 “that US military forces might have to become engaged to defend or protect oil-producer governments”. Today “we can look back on the continuing failures of American government spanning the terms of seven Presidents, Republican and Democratic. Over this time we have been twisted and turned in our foreign policy by our pursuit of energy security, we have subsidized foreign governments inimical to our own interests, seen “petrodollars” diverted to corruption and terrorism, deployed hundreds of thousands of troops, and billions of dollars’ worth of materiel, fought the Gulf War, invaded Iraq, and remained engaged in a long term commitment in Afghanistan, at costs already exceeding a trillion dollars, all directly or indirectly due to our energy dependence.”
Vice Admiral Dennis M. McGinn notes that “Climate change has the potential to create more frequent, intense and widespread natural and humanitarian disasters due to typhoons, flooding, drought, disease, crop failure and the consequent migration of large populations [which will] magnify existing tensions in critical regions, overwhelm fragile political, economic and social structures, causing them to fracture and fail. Fragile governments will become failed states, and desperation will drive whole populations to be displaced on a scale far beyond what we see today. And into this turmoil and power vacuum will rush paramilitaries, organized crime, extremists producing a highly exportable brand of terrorism. The predictable result will be much greater frequency and intensity of regional conflict and direct threats to U.S. interests and national security. Population growth and projected per capita increase in energy consumption of the next 20 years will make fossil fuel supply and demand curves widely divergent.”
Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity]
House 111-20. December 1, 2010. Not going away: America’s energy security, jobs and climate challenges. House of Representatives Hearing. Committee on energy independence and global warming.
Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts. In April of 2007, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held its first hearing. At that inaugural gathering, we discussed the twin challenges of climate change and our dependence on foreign oil. Since that time, Congress passed new fuel economy standards. We made investments into renewable energy, advanced battery technology and efficiency measures that save families and small businesses money.
Our troops continue to fight bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan, where our energy interests remain entangled.
The Gulf of Mexico was sullied by BP’s oil spill, which became the worst environmental disaster in United States history.
Over the last few years, the politics of energy have changed and shifted more times than we can count, yet what has not changed are the problems we face as a Nation and as a planet. Today’s hearing is called ‘‘Not Going Away’’, a fitting title for issues that will be central to the health and survival of our planet and our economy for decades and centuries to follow. The national security challenges from our dependence on oil are not going away.
Today before our committee we have Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, who was a witness at our very first hearing. He knows the price of our dependence on foreign oil borne out not in this rhetorical battlefield but in the theater of actual war where bullets and bombs are spent to defend or acquire barrels of oil.
The national security threats from climate change are not going away. During the first select committee hearing, we discussed the drought-influenced Somali conflict that led to Black Hawk down. A warming world exacerbated a military hotspot. This September, we hosted the Pakistani ambassador to discuss his country’s devastating floods. He discussed how his country diverted resources like helicopters away from fighting Al Qaeda to assist in the flood response. An increasingly destabilized climate will invariably lead to more of these destabilizing geopolitical events. The economic security threats stemming from America’s lack of an energy plan are not going away.
The pollution we emit today will still be in the atmosphere centuries from now. Every day that we wait to act to stem the tide of carbon emissions will be felt for decades and centuries to come as our planet warms and our weather patterns become less stable.
In the summer of 1973, as an Army Captain on the faculty at West Point, I spent two months working the first sets of analyses of the “energy crisis” for the Pentagon. At a time when gasoline prices had quadrupled, and long lines extended into the streets at every service station, Americans seemed determined to take action. For my part, I analyzed the adverse consequences of our increasing dependence on foreign oil [and found] that it would distort American foreign policy, and that the funds expended might go to governments that were unstable or didn’t support our interests, and that ultimately, US military forces might have to become engaged to defend or protect oil-producer governments.
At a time when the US was ending its commitments in South East Asia, this was disturbing. After the Yom Kippur War, in October, 1973, there was a rising call for American “Energy Independence”.
Today, we can look back on the continuing failures of American government spanning the terms of seven Presidents, Republican and Democratic. Over this time we have been twisted and turned in our foreign policy by our pursuit of energy security, we have subsidized foreign governments inimical to our own interests, seen “petrodollars” diverted to corruption and terrorism, deployed hundreds of thousands of troops, and billions of dollars’ worth of materiel, fought the Gulf War, invaded Iraq, and remained engaged in a long term commitment in Afghanistan, at costs already exceeding a trillion dollars, all directly or indirectly due to our energy dependence.
And the costs of that dependence continue to grow. Today the American economy sits with over 16% unemployment, or underemployment. Yet even in this slack economy we will be sending over $300 billion dollars abroad this year to pay for American’s thirst for petroleum. This is equivalent to a tax – a levy – a bounty of about $1,000 for every man, woman and child in America…money that is desperately needed within the American economy to create jobs, build communities, fund education, repair infrastructure, and give our children and grandchildren a future. Instead it is sent abroad to fund governments in places like Venezuela, Nigeria, and states on the Arabian peninsula.
And then, we ask our military to organize, train and equip our forces, and deploy to fight, or provide secure access to these petroleum resources So, add to the $300 billion annual costs to the American economy in the defense budget for the “secure access” portion of the Defense Department budget – ships, aircraft, bases, Marines, ground troops, prepositioned equipment, exercises, and all the long-lead time procurement that goes with this. Then add another amount – $150-$200 billion per year for the costs of the actual engagement in Iraq and the fighting in Afghanistan. Surely we are one of the most generous nations in history, not only purchasing oil abroad but organizing vast armed forces , equipped, trained, deployed and engaged in fighting which is directly or indirectly aimed at protecting some of the very nations to which we are remitting vast sums of money in exchange for oil and gas. And somehow, although we don’t take the majority of our oil imports from the Gulf, nevertheless, we pay the vast majority of the costs for access there. Why should a nation struggling to create jobs and move its economy forward be spending hundreds of billions of dollars importing oil, when alternatives are available?
Of course, unlike 1973, we now understand that the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases is contributing significantly, and perhaps decisively, to long-term world-wide climate change. We must address this, also as a threat to our national security. But however great this concern, as an American, I have to look first at our own country, and how we are squandering our near-term future.
Vice Admiral Dennis M. McGinn
The Advisory Board consists of about a dozen or 15 retired generals and admirals from all four of the military services, including the Coast Guard and the National Guard, and came up with the consensus in that report that climate change was a threat to national security because it will act as a threat multiplier for instability in critical regions of the world. This can be manifested in many different ways, but it occurred to me this summer when Pakistan had 20 million people affected by torrential monsoon flood, historical levels of flooding, that here is a nation that is nuclear armed, has an ongoing Taliban insurgency that threatens the stability of that government, and is essential to our success and the success of NATO in Afghanistan. And we have 20 million people that are affected by severe weather, the type of scenario that was exactly in the minds of the Military Advisory Board when we said climate change is a threat to national security.
It is not environmental restrictions on oil exploration that are keeping us from energy independence; it is a fundamental problem of supply and demand that will grow more divergent over time. We cannot drill our way to sustainable energy independence. The US controls only 3% of the world’s known oil reserves but uses over 25% of the world’s oil supplies—we will never have enough domestic supply to meet our need for this fuel.
Clearly the U.S. Military will be called to respond to these new threats. At the same time, we will be confronted with more frequent resource based conflicts-think oil-in the most volatile regions of the world. At the same time increasing demand for, and dwindling supplies of fossil fuels will add greatly to this instability in many of the very same places worst hit by climate change. In May 2009 the CAN Military Advisory Board concluded that America’s current energy posture constitutes a serious and urgent threat to national security – militarily, diplomatically and economically. This creates an ongoing unacceptable level of risk to our nation.
Some of [you] may be surprised to hear former generals and admirals talk about climate change and energy threats…but they shouldn’t be. In the military, you learn quickly that reducing threats and vulnerabilities is essential, well before you get into harm’s way. As we consider the threat of climate change and energy to global security, the trends and warnings are clear, we need to take appropriate action. Climate change has the potential to create more frequent, intense and widespread natural and humanitarian disasters due to typhoons, flooding, drought, disease, crop failure and the consequent migration of large populations. These climate-driven severe weather events will magnify existing tensions in critical regions, overwhelm fragile political, economic and social structures, causing them to fracture and fail. The predictable result will be much greater frequency and intensity of regional conflict and direct threats to U.S. interests and national security.
Population growth and projected per capita increase in energy consumption of the next 20 years will make fossil fuel supply and demand curves widely divergent unless we start now to diversify and change our energy posture. Our fossil fuel dependence will be with us for decades. Fierce global competition, instability and conflict over dwindling supplies of fossil fuels and increasing global warming will be a major part of the future strategic landscape.
Climate impacts like extreme drought, flooding, storm, temperatures, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and wildfire—occurring more frequently and more intensely across the globe—will inevitably create political instability where societal demands for the essentials of life exceed the capacity of governments to cope. As noted above, fragile governments will become failed states, and desperation and hopelessness will drive whole populations to be displaced on a scale far beyond what we see today. And into this turmoil and power vacuum will rush paramilitaries, organized crime, extremists producing a highly exportable brand of terrorism.
Clearly the U.S. Military will be called to respond to these new threats. At the same time, we will be confronted with more frequent resource based conflicts—think oil—in the most volatile regions of the world. At the same time increasing demand for, and dwindling supplies of fossil fuels will add greatly to this instability in many of the very same places worst hit by climate change. In May 2009 the CAN Military Advisory Board concluded that America’s current energy posture constitutes a serious and urgent threat to national security – militarily, diplomatically and economically. This creates an ongoing unacceptable level of risk to our nation.
Militarily, our dependence on oil stretches our military thin because we are obliged to protect and ensure the free flow of oil in hostile or destabilized regions—even as our troops are on their 3rd and 4th combat deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan. Protecting our access to foreign oil jeopardizes our military and exacts a huge price in dollars and lives.
Beyond assuring the free flow of oil, our nation’s, and our military’s inefficient use of fuel adds to the already great risks assumed by our troops. It reduces combat effectiveness and puts our troops—more directly and more often—in harm’s way. Petro-dollars going into Iranian coffers have directly helped to finance our enemies in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The insurgents have used that money to buy communications, sensors and the most lethal components of improvised explosive devices and roadside bombs that continue to kill and maim our troops on a weekly basis.
Climate-driven disruption is such a viable threat that the Pentagon has already started to prepare contingencies for such scenarios, and focused on the issue in its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, as did the State Department in its Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.
Another aspect of this was that the board recognized that our economy, energy, climate change, and national security are all inextricably linked. If you want to develop policies and solutions to address any one of those, you have to carefully think through the effects on all of the others.
We got together and put out a report in May of 2009 that focused on the energy aspect of these interlinked challenges. And our main conclusion in that report was unequivocal. America’s energy posture constitutes a serious and urgent threat to our national security—diplomatically, economically, and militarily. In the military venue, we see it manifesting in Iraq with roadside bombs now in Afghanistan. We saw burning NATO fuel convoys that were along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. We see from intelligence reports that petro dollars that are going to Iran are finding their way into the hands of the Taliban and al Qaeda and being used to buy the equipment and the very lethal projectiles and components that are killing and maiming our troops on a weekly basis over there. That money is coming from global purchase of oil, and the United States purchases one-quarter of that oil every year.
Diplomatically, we are trying to do something about preventing a nuclear armed Iran from emerging. Our leverage in the international diplomatic community is undercut by the fact that we use 25% of the world’s oil every year and we sit on perhaps 3%.
And economically, make no mistake, the recession that we are hopefully and too slowly starting to come out of, has as a fundamental cause factor the tremendous cost of our addiction to oil in the past. In fact, if you go back in history, over the past four recessions, every one of them has been preceded within 6 months by oil spikes, oil price spikes.
This is not going to go away. We are going to come out of this recession. The economy of the world and the United States is going to heat up and so will the appetite for oil and so will return the volatile cycle but ever higher prices and ever scarcer availability, certainly over the next 10 years but perhaps even sooner than that. We have got to find ways to break that addiction.
Finally, in July of this year, the Military Advisory Board put out a report titled Powering America’s Economy: Energy Innovation at the Crossroads of National Security Challenges; and the key finding of this report was that our economy and our national security are so inextricably linked. As we look at ways to deal with our deficit, as we look for ways to afford all of the priorities of America, one of the things that will be inevitably on the table is how much do we pay for defense. If you don’t have a good and strong economy, you don’t have a good and strong defense structure in armed services. So there is an inextricable link. And the fact that our energy choices in the past and certainly going forward are going to have a tremendous effect for the good or for not good on our economic strength is the key part.
The main recommendation from this report that was published in July of this year was simply that the United States Government should take bold and aggressive action to support clean energy technology innovation and rapidly decrease the Nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
This is an American challenge. It is one that Americans together will meet. It doesn’t have partisan labels on it. The solutions are available today. They need to be guided by leadership and good policy which enables us to advance our energy efficiency and to increase our choices of clean, renewable fuels in order to create opportunity for our economy, create opportunity for our society, and raise our level of national security and to be a leader in the global sense in meeting these energy and climate challenges.’’
Dr. Peter Gleick. I offer one example in my testimony of the massive consequences expected simply from sea level rise along the California coast from an analysis my Institute did for the State of California. The value of infrastructure at risk along the coast of California from expected sea level rise is already $100 billion. There are 500,000 people in areas that are expected to be flooded from sea level rise, and that is one small impact in one small area of the world that we are going to have to deal with. We need environmental standards for greenhouse gas emissions, including not just carbon dioxide but methane, hydroflurocarbons.
I don’t often tell jokes at congressional hearings—and I am not an economist—but there is a classic economics joke about an economist walking down the street with his little girl. And the little girl—they are holding hands, and the little girl says, daddy, there is a $20 bill on the ground. And the economist says, don’t be silly, dear. If there was a $20 bill on the ground, someone would have found it already.
The truth is the potential for efficiency improvements are enormous. The ability to improve the efficiency with which we use energy in this country, do the things we want to do with much less energy, and I would argue water efficiency as well, which has an enormous greenhouse gas savings as well, is largely untapped. We have made progress in that area, but there is enormous progress to be made. And it is far, far cheaper to do that than for the Federal Government to be spending money on expensive, unreliable efforts to sequester carbon.
Mr. Kauffman, Chairman of the board of Levi Strauss & Company. We rely upon an agricultural product, in this case cotton, to make 95% of our product. Extreme weather events in Pakistan have driven up prices of cotton 50% since July, 100% since the beginning of the year. So we are actually seeing prices that we haven’t seen since Levi Strauss himself was around. Climate change puts consumers of agricultural products at risk for crop availability, quality, and pricing.
Another opportunity for us is energy efficiency. At a single distribution facility—and we have quite a number of them—we could save over $600,000 a year, a 33 percent savings at this site. The millions of dollars that we could save from energy efficiency we would be able to reinvest in our business.
And in terms of energy efficiency, we could do more faster and cheaper with Federal legislation that incentivizes utilities to work with us. Utilities generally still have the incentive to sell more electricity rather than invest in energy efficiency. In terms of energy efficiency, there are substantial upfront costs we must make to invest that are difficult for us to finance. We see that the financing system for renewables and energy efficiency is not up to the task. And while we applaud government policy in supporting more R&D, the emphasis on innovation over deployment make it difficult for us to achieve our objectives by using good enough technology that is available today.
KENNETH GREEN. We hear about efficiency gains. The idea that there are massive efficiency gains just lying around is an economic fallacy. There are not $100 bills lying on the ground to get picked up by actors who internalize that value. If they have to go to the government to do something, it is because it doesn’t really make sense for them to do it without the government. It is not actual real efficiency. It is faux efficiency.
We should stop making things worse. Right now, governments incentivize people to live in climatically fragile areas. If they are flooded out of a coast, we rebuild them on the same coast. If they have a drought area, we subsidize bringing water in to remedy their drought. Government as an insurer of last resort is a risk subsidizer. Governments are great at building infrastructure. But they don’t price it.
I would like to point out somebody recently from the Tyndall Center in the U.K., one of their scientists, said that in order to really deal with climate change the developed world—the entire developed world—must forgo 20 years of economic growth. Does anyone realistically think that is going to happen? I don’t think so. And I think it is a waste of time and money and energy to focus on attempting to do what will not be done.
They are cutting their subsidies to wind and solar power, and rampant corruption has been discovered. In Spain some of the criminal cartels moved heavily into solar power and were using diesel generators to sell solar power at night to the Spanish government at a fixed rate higher than the competitive sources of energy. These things are, frankly, boondoggles. They are promoted by rent seekers, and this has been shown time after time after time.
ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR. We should be replacing the coal. We have 320 gigawatts of build capacity for coal in this country. We have 450 GW of natural gas capacity. The coal capacity is used 99% of the time, the gas capacity is used 38 percent of the time. And that is not good for the environment.
My home in Mount Kisco, New York is powered by geothermal. We could do that with virtually every home in our country outside of the major cities we have, that we are number two in solar resources in the world. The Scientific American just did a study saying that if we were to harness the solar in an area that is 75 miles by 75 miles in desert southwest, we could power 100% of the existing grid. The Great Plains States, the Saudi Arabia of wind. We have enough wind in Montana, North Dakota, and Texas to provide 100 percent of the energy grid of North America three times over, even if every American owned an electric car.
We need to develop a grid system in this country. And I know your prejudices against a national unified grid because of the ease with which that would facilitate coal power into New England when we already have a New England extraordinary wind resource that we ought to be exporting. But we need a grid system. We need a grid system, whether it is regional grids or national unified grids that are going to create a marketplace that is governed by rational rules, rather than having 50 different public utility commissions in 50 different States, each with its own arcane, Byzantine set of rules, a vulcanized set of rules that restricts access to the grid.
Today we have a marketplace in the energy sector that is governed by rules that were rigged by the incumbents to reward the dirtiest, filthiest, most poisonous, most destructive, most addictive fuels from hell, rather than the cheap, clean, green, abundant, and wholesome and local fuels from heaven. We need to reverse that dynamic.
You build an oil plant, now you have got to go to Saudi Arabia, punch holes in the ground, bring up the oil, refine it expensively, genuflect to the sheiks who despise democracy and are hated by their own people, get in periodic wars that cost $4.3 trillion, according to OMB—that is what this one is going to cost over the next 20 years—bring it across the Atlantic, with a military export that Exxon doesn’t pay for, but you and I pay for, then spill it all over the Gulf, spill it all over Valdez, burn it, and poison everybody in America.