War, Oil and Renewable Energy

by Steve Breyman

In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US, citizens have begun to ask “how could this happen?” Among the several complexly twisted roots of the crisis are America and the industrial world’s ongoing and worsening energy insecurity.

We did not learn a major lesson of the Gulf War: drastically reduce our dependence on imported petroleum so that America’s sons and daughters will never again need to shed their blood for oil. Instead, US daily oil imports rose by nearly 60% since 1991. World crude oil production has increased by over ten million barrels per day over the same period. Thirty percent of the world’s global daily oil production comes from the Persian Gulf, the home of sixty-five percent of known reserves.

The repressive, anti-feminist Saudi monarchy has been under US protection since FDR met with Ibn Saud in 1945. President Carter pledged to defend the free flow of oil from the Gulf in January 1980. Much of US military strategy and force structure came to revolve around the preservation of the anti-democratic oil sheikdoms.

And the US never left the Persian Gulf following the expulsion of the Iraqi military from Kuwait. The Fifth Fleet patrols the waters of the Gulf. US warplanes have flown more than a quarter million missions firing thousands of missiles against hundreds of targets as part of Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the no-fly-zone in Iraq. Over 20,000 US military personnel are currently deployed in the Gulf at the price of many billions of dollars per year.

The seemingly permanent US military presence in the Gulf is a chronic irritant in American relations with a significant sector of the peoples of the region, and has increased our vulnerability to terrorism. Recall the truck bomb attack against Saudi National Guard headquarters in November 1995 (killing five American servicemen among others). Another truck bomb killed nineteen young US servicemen in Dhahran seven months later. Nearly a year ago a human torpedo killed seventeen sailors aboard the USS Cole in Yemen. Osama bin Laden claims to be driven by an animosity born of the US presence in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites.

How to avoid the recurring tragedies that inevitably accompany our oil habit? Part of the answer is simple and straightforward: Kick the habit. Let’s make the shift to clean energy now, not later after the polar ice caps melt, and we suffer through further extreme droughts, hurricanes, and fossil fuel conflicts.

Contrary to popular myth, renewable energy technologies-solar, small hydro, wind, biofuels-are proven, reliable and affordable. Wind power is the world’s fastest growing energy source, and is currently cheaper than both coal and natural gas. Global shipments of solar photovoltaic cells grow by over 20% per year. Hydrogen fuel cells for appliances, homes, and cars appear to be right around the corner. ARCO/BP executive Michael Bowlin suggests we’re now in the “last days of the Age of Oil.” Frank Ingriselli, President of Texaco Technology Ventures, claims we’re moving “inexorably towards hydrogen energy . . . those who don’t pursue it . . . will rue it.”

We’re not yet ready-a delay of our own making-to meet much of our energy needs through renewable sources. Here in New York, Gov. Pataki ordered the state government to meet 10% of its energy needs through renewable sources by 2005, and 20% by 2010. This is a good start. But New York State does not currently produce enough renewable energy to meet that modest goal, to say nothing of the energy needs of New York’s businesses and households.

The answer to our energy woes is neither to commence oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge nor to increase offshore oil drilling. The answer to our energy troubles is not to build more nuclear power plants-themselves potential targets for terrorist attack. Only a rapid and far-reaching transition to renewable energy will ensure US energy security and prevent future oil wars.

Our shift to renewables is a question of when, rather than whether. Making the move sooner rather than later will pay off through cleaner air and water, stabilized climate, and improved human and ecosystem health. Switching to green energy is also one of the most important steps we can take to safeguard our long-term national security. CP

Steve Breyman is Director of the Ecological Economics, Values & Policy Program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

CounterPunch: Complete Coverage of 9/11 and Its Aftermath

Steve Breyman is a former William C. Foster Visiting Scholar Fellow in the US State Department.   Steve Breyman teaches energy and environmental policy courses at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He serves as EPA Administrator in the Green Shadow Cabinet.   Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu

November 26, 2015
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration