The Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, choking outgoing oil deliveries, underscores vulnerability on the energy issue. Beyond assuring the free flow of oil, our nation’s and our military’s reliance on a single commodity for fuel reduces combat effectiveness, puts our troops in harm’s way and takes them away from their mission: i.e., to fight, engage and rebuild.
The Navy has been investing in alternative fuel technologies to reduce its vulnerability to price volatility, as well as its dependence on foreign oil and related security and economic risks and, ultimately, to save scarce financial resources and lives.
While there is no “silver bullet” to meet our growing energy needs, there are a lot of “silver buckshot” approaches. Increased domestic production of oil will help, but with only 2-3 percent of the world’s known oil reserves, yet 20-25 percent of global consumption, it will not suffice. Increasing global demand for oil will continue to drive the price of oil higher, regardless of how much we produce domestically. The Navy must look ahead and invest now to ensure that we maintain our strategic advantage and operational flexibility going forward.
Biofuels are not a “risky proposition.” They exist today, and more advanced and efficient bio-based fuels and alternative energy technologies are being developed all the time. They need a steady demand to cause investors to expand the industry. The costs of biofuels are continuing to decline, unlike the current price of petroleum.
Security must trump ideology. The cost of inaction is too high. More sustainable energy solutions also are helping to maintain our global competitiveness and strengthen our foreign policy hand.
“These benefits are time sensitive — waiting for a convenient time to address this [energy security] challenge will weaken us while others continue to gain strength,” as the CNA MAB’s latest report further emphasizes.
The Navy — and our nation — now has an opportunity and an obligation to lead. We can meet the challenges of economic, energy and national security. We can transform these daunting challenges into great opportunities that yield sustained security and prosperity, reduce the likelihood that our troops will have to fight in foreign lands and create a better quality of life for future generations. That is what leadership is all about.
U.S. Navy Retired Vice Admiral Dennis V. McGinn is vice chairman of the CNA Military Advisory Board and president of the American Council on Renewable Energy.