Monday, November 15, 2010

Energy, Environment, and the US Military

The following are excerpts from a speech by Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Washington D.C. last October 13, 2010:

"Recently, I traveled to Tucson and the very first question I fielded during a town hall meeting was not related to our policies in Iraq or Afghanistan or other topics you might expect but related to their interconnection – to the interconnection between energy, security and our global future.

And at the University of Arizona, the very next place I visited later that day, an engineer named Vincent Polowski (sp) shared with me that he believed the number-one national security challenge in the 21st century would be climate change. Vincent is not alone in his concerns. And we are in fact seeing evidence of climate change’s potential impacts on our security.

Near the polar cap, waterways are opening that we couldn’t have imagined it a few years ago – opening trade routes, presenting both opportunity and vulnerability and rewriting the geopolitical map of the world. And it’s not just the people of Arizona who are thinking about these things. Americans around the country are starting to connect the dots between energy, security and our future.

My friend and columnist Tom Friedman has spoken eloquently about – of the growing need and awareness to rethink our views on energy and minimize our dependence on overseas energy sources that fuel regimes that do not always share our interests and values while not further damaging a world that is already becoming overheated, over polluted and overstretched.

We in the Defense Department have a role to play here. Not solely because we should – should be good stewards of our environment and our scarce resources but also because there is a strategic imperative for us to reduce risk, improve efficiencies and preserve our freedom of action wherever we can....

"Quite simply, like most of America, my shipmates and I operated under a “burn it if you’ve got it” mentality. We were providing supporting fire off the coast of Vietnam and when we needed fuel we got it. A few years later, in fact, the very first ship I commanded, the USS Noxubee, was a gasoline tanker dedicated to keeping fuel flowing throughout our fleet.

Now, I do not want to imply that we were deliberately wasteful or reckless. We just held a very conventional view that fuel was cheap, easy and available, without ever really connecting it to any broader geopolitical implications. Clearly, that is not the world we’re living in today.

Many of us here this morning are acutely aware of the cost and challenge in terms of both blood and treasure of providing energy to our forces in Afghanistan today. And recent headlines of NATO fuel convoys being attacked only serve to remind us of these vulnerabilities. DOD is using 300,000 barrels of oil every day. The energy use per soldier creeps up every year. And our number-one import into Afghanistan is fossil fuel.

Yet there is no doubt we are making some progress. Secretary Mabus, who will speak towards the end of this session, is leading the Navy on an ambitious path to cut the nontactical petroleum by 50 percent by 2015 and sail great, green fleets by 2016..."

You can read the rest of Admiral Michael Mullen's speech at:

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