Is the Navy greener than California?
As more polls show that a majority of Americans want action on carbon pollution and global warming, leadership on fighting climate change is coming from surprising places -- starting with the military.
At a recent reception held by the Environmental Defense Fund in Washington D.C., Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a speech in which he connected the dots between climate change, energy and security issues. He became the highest-ranking official in the Obama administration to do so.
Panetta explained that his Department of Defense is facing a budget shortfall of more than $3 billion because of unexpected fuel costs. "I have a deep interest in more sustainable and efficient energy options," he said. Secretary Panetta went on to describe how the U. S. military will be called on for humanitarian assistance in the face of rising seas, longer droughts, and more frequent and the severe natural disasters that are a result of global warming.
Secretary Panetta was followed on the podium by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who has served since May 2009. In 1987, the Harvard-trained lawyer became the youngest governor in the nation when he won office in Mississippi. Mabus declared, in an inimitably rich Southern drawl: "We buy too much fossil fuel from the most volatile places on earth."
He emphasized that "drilling alone will never solve our national security concerns over foreign oil." Mabus went on to announce that the Navy has made a commitment to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources, like biofuels, solar and wind, by 2025. That's the most ambitious goal for renewable energy in the country -- higher even than California's!
Mabus pointed out that the Navy has always led in pioneering new sources of fuel, whether it was from moving from sail to coal in the 1850s, to oil in the 20th century, and nuclear energy in the 1950s. "Every time, there were doubters and naysayers," he said forcefully. "Every time. And every single time, they were wrong and they will be wrong again this time."
Mabus vigorously countered the argument that renewable energy is more expensive. "Well of course it is! Every new technology is more expensive. What if we hadn't started using computers because they were more expensive than typewriters? What if we hadn't started using cell phones because they were more expensive than land lines? Where would we be?"
Both Panetta and Mabus are on the front lines again -- in a battle that will help us curb carbon emissions and lead us to energy independence. Anyone want to join the notoriously craven science deniers at the Heartland Institute in their claim that any leader who fights global warming is no better than tyrants and killers like Charles Manson, Osama bin Laden and Unabomber Kacyznski?
Go ahead. Make Secretary Mabus' day.