Climate Legislation is Needed Now

Aug 24, 2009

The rancor in town hall meetings during our legislator's August recess has reached a fever pitch, and I truly hope people will take time to separate fact from fiction, especially in discussions about climate and energy legislation.

Wilmington, NC – While navigating the tidal creeks and marshes near Camp Lejeune, I was never out of sight of large helicopters and other military aircraft flying in orderly loops and lines, burning considerable fuel in the process; a poignant, if not ironic reminder that our military heavily depends on the same oil we are fighting to secure in the Middle East right now, and the insecurity we face as a result of our nation's gluttonous use of oil will continue to be measured in casualties on battlefields established to obtain oil to run an outdated energy economy.

The American Petroleum Institute knows this, as do our military leaders. In fact, a recent 2009 report prepared with help from retired U.S. generals and admirals serving on the Military Advisory Board for the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) identified, and I quote: "?a series of current risks created by America's energy policies and practices that constitute a serious and urgent threat to national security?militarily, diplomatically, and economically." The Military Advisory Board further notes that "U.S. dependence on oil weakens international leverage, undermines foreign policy objectives, and entangles America with unstable or hostile regimes."

And this brings me back to industry, change, and the economic benefits that come from adapting to change. We are already in a new era of global politics driven by global economics supported by global energy needs. The world of nations hungers for an American way of life that we have enjoyed these past decades. I hear conservative talk show hosts blathering that we should not work to be more energy efficient and less oil dependant because China and India are not required to do so. What these proponents of status quo fail to note is, China and India are already implementing technologies that our nation helped develop, but had to sell to more opportunistic nations including Denmark and East Germany after big oil lobbyists convinced our legislators to defeat tax credits for innovative renewable energy manufacturers, including wind and solar companies in Ohio and Vermont, respectively.

I have to wonder where big oil's global allegiance really lies. Possibly it is with the world's biggest consumers of oil, which will soon be China and India, not the United States. Right now big oil lobbyists are mobilizing oil company employees to shout down legislators who are trying to explain the nuances of complex legislation at a time in our history when we need to rebuild our economy with a focus on new technologies that will make us more efficient users of energy and less dependent on insecure sources of oil. The 2008 campaign rally chant of "drill, baby, drill," ignores the fact that the United States has only 3 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, yet we consume 25 percent of the world's oil. Put simply, we can't drill our way out of the hole we're in.

Climate legislation is not just about fighting global warming. Climate legislation is about providing potable water supplies to quench our thirst; it's about sustainable food production to quell our hunger; its about energy-efficient housing to provide us shelter; it's about energy-efficient transportation to connect our communities; it's about assuring renewable, on-demand electricity to provide us these needs; and accomplishing all this will create sustainable American jobs that cannot be outsourced. Strong climate legislation, as military experts are telling us, is needed because, and again I quote: "U.S. dependence on fossil fuels undermines economic stability, which is critical to national security."

Most importantly though, climate legislation is also about protecting ecosystem and biological diversity, because in the final analysis, our species is beholden to the forests, fields, rivers and seas that make planet earth life-supporting in the first place.

And for all these reasons, I am proud to be engaged in the effort to pass strong, integrated climate legislation designed to secure us economically and ecologically.

(This commentary doesn't necessarily reflect the views of WHQR, its editorial staff, or members.)