This Veterans Day, Consider The Consequences Of Our Oil Dependence

You remember this from your 8th grade history textbook, right?

Tomorrow, on Veterans Day, I want us to renew the fight for climate and energy action.

I intend the above cartoon as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to full-throttle calls to arms of wars past, but I think it serves a purpose too. (WWI/history/poster buffs will recognize it as a shameless (intentional) rip-off of H.R. Hopps’ 1917 anti-‘hun’ classic.)

Propaganda from the World Wars relentlessly monsterized* enemy combatants (and sometimes entire countries, lamentably), and most of it looks pretty harsh now, or at least simplistic. We still get nutty when we get to saber-rattling, but we don’t usually do it quite this overtly nowadays—at least not through state-approved channels.

Our most pressing battle of the moment requires no such subtlety. Global warming is every bit the brute we were variously led to believe the Germans, Russians, and Japanese were, and its destructive power knows no allegiance or point of truce. We cover this a lot, but it’s always worth repeating: the debate is over as to whether global warming is happening or whether we are causing it. We need to cut carbon pollution and develop clean energy now to avert some of the worst consequences in the years to come.

Opponents of climate and energy action often try to paint us—climate hawks, let’s say—as somehow unpatriotic or too wedded to pie-in-the-sky dreams. I doubt they’d level those same charges at the fighting men and women we honor today—many of whom have found themselves quite literally fighting both sides of a war for the future of the U.S. and the planet.

Back in February, the Truman National Security Project put out a report called “Oil Addiction: Fueling Our Enemies” (PDF)

The U.S. sends approximately one billion dollars a day overseas to import oil. While this
figure is staggering by itself, the dangerous implications of our addiction are even more
pronounced when analyzing where our money goes – and whom it helps to support.

Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, retired Deputy Chief of Naval Warfare Requirements and Programs, captured the national security dangers of our addiction to oil in 2009 testimony before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: “In 2008, we sent $386 billion overseas
to pay for oil – much of it going to nations that wish us harm. This is an unprecedented and unsustainable transfer of wealth to other nations.
It puts us in the untenable position of funding both sides of the conflict and directly undermines our fight against terror.”

Our oil addiction drives up prices worldwide, pouring funds into the coffers of foreign regimes that hold anti-American sentiments, harbor terrorists, and otherwise threaten America’s national security. As the Council on Foreign Relations wrote, “major energy consumers—notably the United States, but other countries as well—are finding that their growing dependence on imported energy increases their strategic vulnerability and constrains their ability to pursue a broad range of foreign policy and national security objectives.”

The one billion dollars a day that Americans send overseas on oil floods a global oil market that enriches hostile governments, funds terrorist organizations, and props up repressive regimes.

The Truman National Security Project is part of the Operation Free coalition, a partnership of “leading Veterans and national security organizations who recognize that climate change is a major threat, and support fast, bold action.” It is by no means the only group of veterans now vocally touting the benefits of fighting climate change.

From the more recent report “Tackling Oil Addiction,” (PDF) also by the Truman National Security Project:

Americans depend on their cars for over 90% of all travel. Those cars are fueled almost entirely (94%) by oil. Depending on oil to run our nation makes America vulnerable, while paying enormous sums to those who could do us harm. It is time for America to take control of its energy future, cut dependence on oil, and defund terrorist threats. Increasing fuel economy to 60 miles per gallon by 2025 is a major step to bolster U.S. security.

The U.S. sends nearly $1 billion a day overseas to import oil. This staggering figure has dangerous national security implications. Scaling back the magnitude of our oil addiction will allow America to reduce dependency on oil supplies from countries that don’t share our values. By tackling our oil addiction, we reduce economic waste, environmental damage, political complications, and military involvement.

In April, a Lake Research Group poll for found that 73 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans supported climate and energy legislation, with 79 percent expressing their belief that ending dependence on foreign oil is an important component of national security (only 14 percent opposed that idea):

“This poll confirms what we always knew was true – veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan know, first-hand, the destructive effect our dependence on oil has on our national security, and on the battlefield,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran and Chairman of  “They are well aware of arguments made in favor and against bi-partisan clean energy and climate change legislation, and firmly fall into the group of Americans supportive of passing that comprehensive legislation.  Veterans of the wars we’re fighting want legislation passed now.”

(Poll itself available here)

Also via VoteVets, many veterans joined other ‘non-traditional’ environmental voices this summer and fall to note their opposition to California’s Prop 23, which would have delayed The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 with an eye toward eventually stamping it out completely:

…On the other side is an interesting mix. It’s not just environmentalists who are opposing Prop. 23. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was recently joined by Republican and Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of State George Schultz. Schultz, in announcing his opposition, said, “As a former Secretary of State, I see our dependence on foreign oil as one of the greatest threats to national security, and the Dirty Energy Proposition would undermine efforts to break that dependence.”

Add veterans to that opposition, and on the side of Secretary Schultz. Our dependence on oil means our petro-dollars make their way to the very same extremists we’re fighting. Worldwide demand for oil, driven by U.S. consumption, means that Iran makes $100 million more every single day. And, even the Pentagon has sounded the siren on security implications of global climate change.

Prop 23 ultimately failed despite tremendous polluter influence and financial support, and those veteran voices doubtlessly helped.

Just last month, Operation Free’s Laura Britton wrote an op-ed in the Santa Fe New Mexican that nicely summarizes the deadly cycle of emissions and violence that faces our fighting forces:

Every day, the U.S. pays $1 billion for energy, much of it to hostile regimes that funnel the funds to terrorist groups. And while America’s oil money fuels enemy nations and their extremist allies, the carbon pollution caused by that same dirty fuel leads to the floods, famines and droughts that dissolve already volatile nations into the perfect breeding grounds for terrorist groups.

More and more Americans on the front lines are taking full stock of the wars we fight and realizing that global conflict and outdated energy policies are inextricably linked. As we salute them tomorrow, we should remember this and vow again to wean ourselves off of foreign oil and the conditions it perpetuates.

* (C) Max Greenberg 2010