While Americans hang out with their families today (Memorial Day), it might make sense for them to think a bit about the men and women that have perished while serving their country… it is because of them that we are taking the day off to eat hamburgers, drink beer, and prepare for summer.
While I live in San Francisco, I’m not the typical sappy hippie environmentalist denizen envisioned by some; but I do feel strongly about clean energy. I know that it is an investment that is worth the return for this country, even if that return is only measured by fewer armed conflicts and fewer mourning mothers.
Until a few years ago I was an active duty Marine Officer. When I came back to the United States from some time in Iraq, I got irked by a lot of things, some social, some political. One of my biggest frustrations was the profligate use of oil and electricity here in the United States general given how many lives* were negatively affected by the struggle I had just witnessed. A strong motivator, what ever your political persuasion, for “liberating” Iraq from Saddam was to liberate the oil that he represented for the world’s markets. We have to face the fact that energy security is inextricable from our economic success.
The pursuit of clean energy and energy efficiency is consistent with a strong national security posture by providing resilience to energy supply shocks, while mitigating geopolitical threats and the demographic stress associated with climate change. In other words, clean energy is going to obviate the need for us to fight with others for the scraps of land around the world that are rich with energy resources while at the same time keep us from quelling the violence that is sure to come from population migrations and scarce water resources.
It makes clear financial sense to invest in energy efficiency projects, but it also displaces imported energy, and we can do that further through the use of local renewable energy sources (like biofuels) and PHEVs (Plug In Electric Hybrids). We can make ourselves safer still by using more distributed generation systems (like solar) to reduce our exposure to pricing and supply shocks from distribution disruptions, and geopolitical posturing (like the time OPEC hiked up prices… or when Europe lost its natural gas because Russia didn’t like the way the Ukraine was getting chummy with the EU). This diversity isolates infrastructure disruptions, which pose a threat to our communication, information and emergency response systems and ultimately our economic output.
The US is a huge market. By supporting fossil fuels in the US, we further the incentive for the rest of the world to use products that use them, which means that these fuels will be the status quo for a long time. 50% of our trade deficit goes towards energy and that means that we are directly responsible for some aspects of global instability by widening income gaps and indirectly supporting non-state actors. By not setting up an infrastructure that uses energy feedstocks that we can source locally, we reinforce supplier power and aggravate the competition for resources in politically weak regions of the world, like Africa and, gulp…. increasingly, the Arctic.
The turmoil of large population displacements and the intense struggle for water and food resources associated with projected climate change will affect regions of the world that are not all that stable now and, not surprisingly, the United States directly.** This turmoil further jeopardizes our energy supply lines, and that means deploying more troops to keep the peace (which costs us tax payer dollars that could go towards developing renewables or educating our children). And here is a scary thought… as the polar ice caps melt they will expose energy resources, which is a worrisome given the significant challenges the military will face as the US seeks to pursue and maintain its interests in a very hostile environment.
So, take it from me, a former Marine, a non-pinko, and a realistically scared idealistic San Franciscan: support clean energy programs. Your grand kids will appreciate it, and so will the mothers that celebrate Veteran’s Day with their sons and daughters in years to come – as opposed to remembering their brave service on Memorial Day.
Honor our fallen service members that died making this country free, by doing your part in the same.
Happy Memorial Day.
*I include not only the lives of the killed and injured combatants and bystanders, but the loved ones that mourn and care for them.
** 40 degrees North Lattitude surrounding the Americas is where the largest rises in Sea Level are projected. Check out New York and San Francisco’s lattitudes some time when you are bored and looking for a cause.