As a U.S. Army veteran who has seen many fellow veterans suffer from the physical and psychological consequences of war, it is disheartening to observe an absence of discussion within the renewable energy community on the connection between the United States’ oil dependency and its ongoing military engagements. Those who profess to support our troops cannot fail to learn the lessons they offer to the nation.
While Americans will no doubt continue to debate our military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, what is clear is that the antagonistic dynamics of the U.S. relationship with the Muslim world are not likely to change significantly in the near term, in large part because of oil.
This unfortunate reality, viewed in light of the history of dysfunctional relationships between the Muslim world and the United States, leads to the conclusion that if the renewable energy community does not broaden its political base in order to accelerate our nation’s diversification away from oil, the potential for future conflicts and regional instability in the Middle East and Central Asia will likely increase.
The national security frame offers renewable energy advocates an opening to achieve this goal. While political conservatives tend to be skeptical of man-made climate change — a phenomenon that can be attributed to the designs of fossil fuel interests — they also tend to be more responsive to national security issues.
While the average citizen may not possess the scientific expertise to verify the science behind climate change, in the Information age history is accessible to all of us. The historical record clearly demonstrates that increasing reliance on unstable foreign governments for our energy needs has become a very serious national security liability.
The impending realities imposed by the federal deficit will likely make it essential for the renewable energy community to focus on free market solutions to our energy problems as public resources dwindle. And given the financial resources of the business interests we are up against, building a broad spectrum of political support for smart policy initiatives will be critical in this asymmetric fight. What we lack in financial resources we must make up in votes. National security is perhaps the one issue that has the potential to bring a winning coalition together.
Thomas J. Buonomo is a former U.S. Army Intelligence Officer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and Middle East Studies from the U.S. Air Force Academy and has spent the past six years researching the nexus between energy markets, U.S. interventions and political instability in developing countries, with a primary emphasis on the Middle East and Latin America.