Rational Cause for Optimism

Rational Cause for Optimism: Solar as Homeland Security

Amidst the noise, haste, and chaos of modern life there are more positive developments for humanity than one might think. Everyone focuses on the disasters of the climate crisis, and while those do motivate our daily work, we also feel it’s important to highlight the hopeful – the very real innovations pushing our clean energy movement forward. The purpose of this new column on our blog is to explore noteworthy causes for optimism that we observe from ReVision Energy’s front row seat in the renewable energy arena.

(Above photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler S. Giguere.)

Renewable Energy Is Homeland Security for America

Because fossil fuels are finite, and population growth is expected to increase global energy demand by 50% over the next 30 years, could it be argued that our underground reserves are now America’s most valuable strategic defense assets?

At present there are only two possible future fossil fuel scenarios: they run out, or they become too environmentally problematic to burn (scientific consensus indicates we’ve already crossed this rubicon). Long-term national energy security, resilience, and independence can never be truly achieved through a strategy that relies upon non-renewable resources like coal, oil, and gas. These resources are vulnerable to supply chain disruptions, extreme weather events, price volatility, and eventual depletion.

Forward-thinking defense brass have long been concerned about the U.S. Military’s over-reliance on fossil fuels as a weak link in the battlefield supply chain. In 2003, Lt. Gen. Jim Mattis (who later served as Secretary of Defense under President Trump) stated that the military “must be unleashed from the tether of fuel.” That’s because Mattis saw the casualties that resulted from deadly enemy attacks on fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army estimated that one in twenty-four fuel convoys resulted in a U.S. casualty from 2003-2007 in the Middle East.

The Energy-Security Paradigm in 2022

The war against Ukraine, combined with Russia’s decades long petro-stranglehold on western Europe, further highlights the energy-security paradigm. As Ukraine desperately tries to fend off Russian air superiority, ground troops, and naval firepower, the unrivaled energy density of aviation fuel, diesel, and gasoline underscore how precious these resources are to a nation’s defense. It’s nearly impossible today to defend airspace, borders, and the high seas without liquid fuels to power fighter jets, heavy artillery, and naval ships.

Armed with this information, Americans have an opportunity to vastly increase national security by minimizing fossil fuel use and helping build the renewable energy, storage, and grid infrastructure necessary for a societal pivot away from coal, oil, and gas.

Considering all the above, it’s plausible to argue that the last nation standing with the greatest underground reserves will eventually be the strongest on the planet.

If that is true, then getting 100% of Americans on board with the clean energy transition is mission critical. Today’s reality – that renewable energy is crucial to national security – might be the strongest argument to convince people like the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry itself that the U.S. is stronger when its energy resources are less vulnerable. Together we can pursue a defense strategy that includes energy independence and resilience without burning fossil fuels except to protect our country and to power critical industries.

us-air-force-academy.jpgFortunately, we already have powerful allies in the Pentagon. Renewable energy, battery storage, heat pumps, and electric vehicles are being rapidly deployed at U.S. Military bases across the nation because the Department of Defense recognizes anthropogenic climate damage as one of America’s most urgent national security threats, and because fossil fuels have proven to be problematic in the battle theater.

(Pictured right: Solar array at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.)

Ironically, the U.S. Department of Defense is the single largest energy consumer on earth. The good news is that the DoD is currently pursuing a goal of procuring or producing 25% renewable energy for its facilities by 2025 under a law signed into effect by President George W. Bush in 2007.

“We face all kinds of threats in our line of work, but few of them truly deserve to be called existential. The climate crisis does. Climate change is making the world more unsafe and we need to act,” stated Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

In a conflict-ridden world that is expected to suffer increasingly extreme weather as a result of climate damage, national defense has become more urgent and complex. We are cautiously optimistic that an American energy transition to renewables and storage represents an opportunity to bring our divided nation back together to achieve long-term security, independence, and resilience. And as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases over the past 175 years, it’s also an opportunity for the U.S. to be accountable for its out-sized negative environmental impact on the rest of the world.