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August 05, 2009

National Security is Energy Security
Posted by Adam Blickstein

Retired general and former National Security Adviser Don Kerrick writes in today's Orlando Sentinel:

As a retired general and former deputy national security adviser, I have firsthand experience combating enemies that threaten American security. But while most see these threats as coming from radical extremism or the standing armies of rogue regimes, our intelligence community, national security experts and many retired military officials agree there is another, more-subtle enemy that threatens our way of life and how we keep America secure: the ramifications of climate change.

Just last year, the National Intelligence Council called climate change one of the gravest long-term threats facing global stability, a looming peril that could undermine American and international security. This is why it's gravely important that President Obama and Congress have begun to take action.


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The following things in Gen. Kerrick's column are wrong:

* Terrorist attacks on oil production facilities are increasing because of local political issues, especially in Nigeria. They are not primarily expressions of anti-American feeling and should not be expected to decline in response to any American energy policy.

* The importance of imported petroleumn to the American economy will continue to be substantial enough to demand attention from the U. S. military in the next few years no matter what energy policy we adopt. The largest sources of strain on the military, however, are the large deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan; related only indirectly to energy security and ineffective for that purpose, these deployments' termination would free up ample resources for any task the military is likely to be called on to perform.

* The familiar tortured logic of the Obama administration with respect to climate change and energy issues generally appears again. Forcing utilities to use more higher-cost "alternative" energy sources will reduce lower cost oil imports, thereby saving us money. The Obama administration usually adds some language about all the jobs -- they are always described as "good-paying" jobs -- that the mandate to use more expensive alternative energy sources will create.

Gen. Kerrick spares us that, but otherwise he conforms to the administration's approach of proclaiming a transcendant economic, security and moral crisis that must be addressed through indirect measures that will not be unpopular, and that can be described in language suggestive of sunshine and lollipops. The fact is that carbon emissions and oil imports both are related most closely to energy use. The one thing that matters with respect to energy use is price. A policy that attempts to reduce American vulnerability to volatility in world oil markets and reduce America's contribution to global climate change by increasing the price of energy from fossil fuel sources -- which is the only policy with a chance of accomplishing either objective -- will not be sustainable if the American public comes to feel it is being deceived about what that policy means for them.

Since that deception is the whole point of cap-and-trade, it is not difficult to see where the administration's advocacy of this legislative monstrosity will end. Indeed, we've seen it already. During the campaign we were assured that only "nay-sayers" and partisan Republicans believed that cap-and-trade would generate little revenue for the government; emission permits would all be auctioned. None would be given away. That idea lasted about 15 minutes once the Democratic Congress took it up.

The point is that some hills must be charged. There is no easy, riskless way around them. The American people must either be engaged at the start with the idea that energy prices must rise, or the policy that attempts to raise them will collapse as soon as they find out what it trying to do. Barack Obama does not do unpopular ideas, and higher energy prices are very unpopular. No one disputes this, but there are times when a President needs to invest his political capital in the cause of persuading the public that some unpopular ideas are necessary, and this is one of them.

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