Opinion

Low-carbon fuel standard a key to national security

With President Obama calling on Congress to authorize military action against the terrorist regime Islamic State, it’s a good time to point out how decisions made in Sacramento can affect U.S. national security.

By accelerating the development and deployment of alternatives to oil, California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard—which the Air Resources Board will consider this week —helps untangle us from regimes that do not share our values. It helps make our nation stronger by weakening regimes that use oil to pay for their murderous acts, and makes the world a little bit safer.

I have seen far too many military crises tied to oil. I have seen oil used as a bargaining chip by foreign nations to shape U.S. policy.”

ISIS—also referred to as ISIL—has been making around a million dollars a day by selling oil. It’s now so bad that the U.N. Security Council—which has a hard time agreeing on much of anything—voted unanimously to punish any country buying oil from ISIS.

When it comes to energy, our national security is best served by a diversified approach. Developing alternatives to oil is essential. With the LCFS, California is driving the market toward fuel diversity—and showing the rest of the country how it can be done.

Having grown up in Sacramento, I take pride in California’s leadership in reducing our addiction to oil. During my 30-year career in the Navy, whether deployed around the world in submarines or working at the Pentagon, I have seen far too many military crises tied to oil. I have seen oil used as a bargaining chip by foreign nations to shape U.S. policy and our own military capability and capacity curtailed due to oil price volatility.

Now, I have the privilege of directing CNA’s Military Advisory Board (MAB) —a DC based think tank with some of our nation’s most senior retired admirals and general—as we research and report on the intersection of energy, climate change and national security. The MAB will tell you, our nation’s over-dependence on oil ties our hands militarily and diplomatically, and it is the Achilles’ heel of our national security strategy.

If Americans in uniform are doing their part to find alternatives to oil, surely we can do the same.

MAB members have also witnessed first hand how overreliance on oil endangers our troops on the battlefield. In Iraq, slow-moving fuel convoys turned our troops into targets and protecting water convoys were tied to 10 percent of Marine Corps casualties. In Afghanistan the cost was even higher where some years the toll of lives lost approached 50 percent just because of fuel and water convoys. Saving fuel and deploying alternatives—like the solar panels Marines routinely deploy at their forward operating bases, which cut down on diesel needed to power generators—saves lives.

If Americans in uniform are doing their part to find alternatives to oil, surely we can do the same.

The millions of Californians who have bought plug-in electric vehicles, hydrogen cars, hybrids and even flex fuel vehicles might not think of themselves as assets to national security, but they are. So are fleets that run their trucks on natural gas or biodiesel fuel blends. And so are members of the Air Resources Board and the Legislature when they pass and implement laws that promote renewable homegrown energy, diversify our energy supply, and reduce our dependence on oil.

For the sake of a stronger nation, I applaud the California Air Resources Board and the LCFS in its courage to make California cleaner, more resilient, and in so doing making our nation stronger.

Ed’s Note: Leo Goff, PhD, a retired Navy captain, is the program manager for CNA’s Military Advisory Board, a group of retired three- and four-star officers who study pressing security issues.


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