By Aaron Blevins, 8/30/2012
Congressman stressed need for diversity in fuel supply
According to Congressman Adam Schiff (D-California), the U.S. must diversify its energy sources in order to reduce the effects of climate change and improve the nation’s security.
During a clean energy discussion hosted by Operation Free at the National Council of Jewish Women/Los Angeles (NCJW/LA) on Friday, Schiff and Seth Jacobson, of the Center for Advanced Studies on Terrorism, discussed how fossil fuel dependence is affecting the country and its military.
“For me, it’s a test of whether our democracy is still capable of doing the big things we need to,” Schiff said.
He said the country is facing a global challenge in terms of climate change, and that is being powered by the country’s oil dependency and energy usage. Not only do they affect the environment, they pose national security challenges, Schiff said.
First, it hampers the military, as retaining enough oil for operations is a logistical and financial drain on the armed forces, he said. Second, the country’s domestic demand for oil undermines national security in that it requires the U.S. to purchase from countries that don’t share America’s sense of freedom, Schiff said. In the worst cases, those purchases may indirectly fund terrorist operations, he added.
“It makes our military less mobile and less effective,” the congressman said, adding that one Marine is killed for every 50 convoys supplying fuel in Afghanistan.
Therefore, he said it makes perfect sense for the military to take the lead in promoting energy efficiency. The Marines have set up solar panels at the combat center in Twentynine Palms, and that is saving eight gallons of fuel per day, Schiff said, adding that there are other such operations in Afghanistan.
Many suggest that the U.S. open its environmental resources to drill for oil domestically. Schiff said that, if the U.S. drilled in every available area in the country, the oil extracted would only amount to 3 percent of the demand worldwide. Meanwhile, the U.S. accounts for 25 percent of the demand globally, he said.
“There is simply no way those numbers are going to add up,” Schiff added. “We cannot drill our way to energy independence. The answer is we need to diversify our energy sources.”
He said the nation’s push toward renewable energy had bipartisan support when President George W. Bush was in office. Schiff said Democrats and Republicans worked together to push legislation that would lessen the federal government’s energy usage.
“That, unfortunately, was probably the high-water mark for bipartisan energy legislation,” Schiff said.
He said there has been wholesale opposition to energy legislation authored by Democrats under the Obama administration, though the U.S. Department of Defense has been able to implement some aspects of energy legislation passed under the Bush administration.
Schiff referenced the Navy’s Great Green Fleet, which sought to power an entire carrier strike fleet with alternative energy by 2016. He said the Navy conducted military exercises with two destroyers and a carrier that were powered by biofuels this summer.
He said the military investment in alternative energy should drive costs down, as private investors will have more confidence in the industry as a result of the military’s involvement.
“This will ultimately make alternative energy more competitively priced and hopefully more stable compared to oil,” Schiff said.
He said the country could eliminate its trade deficit if it could cease its reliance on foreign oil. Schiff said he is confident that the country will achieve this, but it could take 10, 15 or 20 years.
“I believe in the power of the American entrepreneur and our inventive capabilities, and I think we have little choice,” he said. “Given what’s happening to our environment, I don’t think we have that much time to wait.”
Jacobson said California consumes more oil than any other U.S. state, amounting to 9 percent of the country’s demand. He said California is the No. 4 oil-producing state, though the state has experienced declines in production for decades.
“As a result, we started to import a greater percentage of oil,” Jacobson said.
In 1986, 5 percent of the state’s oil came from foreign sources, compared to 50 percent in 2011, he said. Of those foreign sources, the top four are Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Iraq and Colombia, Jacobson said.
The countries, which are susceptible to attacks on their oil flow, represent two-thirds of California’s foreign oil sources, he said. Since those countries are prone to terrorist attacks, California’s oil prices are more vulnerable to price spikes.
“Our growing energy dependence on these four countries is precarious,” Jacobson added.
He said terrorists and Islamic insurgencies attack the oil flow of these countries in three ways: attacks on oil service workers, attacks on the processing centers and cyber attacks. Jacobson cited several examples of such attacks.
He said there are disruptions to the global oil supply chain every day, although it is a relatively resilient system. The country must begin an effort, which may take up to 20 years, to move away from foreign oil dependence through comprehensive policy changes, Jacobson said.
“Time is of the essence,” he added.