THE BLOG
08/28/2014 11:55 am ET Updated Oct 28, 2014

Protect California's Energy Security

This post was co-authored with with Andrea Marr.

Before the end of the legislative session this Friday, California legislators are pondering action worse than just kicking the can down the road -- they're actively considering taking a dive on our energy security.

California's climate law, AB32, has been hailed as an innovation-driver, and a model for other states looking to jump-start their clean energy economies. California will begin regulating the carbon emissions associated with transportation fuels next year, providing pathways to market for more electric vehicles, better batteries, and cleaner fuels, and the jobs that will accompany this industry innovation. But as current and former members of the military, and California natives, we want to highlight how AB32 has also put our state on the path towards a more secure energy future.

Our dependence on oil is a key national security threat, creating opportunities for our adversaries around the world. The terrorist group ISIL, currently spreading violence and mayhem in Iraq, is funding the murder of unarmed civilians from crude oil profits. Oil revenues are used to purchase weapons, pay insurgent fighters, and keep a stranglehold on local tribal leaders and government officials. Our demand at home helps keep the price of oil high around the world, and makes ISIL's smuggling lucrative.

The burdens of our oil dependence falls disproportionately on our men and women in uniform. First, moving fuel on the battlefield is a tactical vulnerability for our troops, reliant on slow-moving truck convoys that were constantly targets of attack in Iraq and Afghanistan. From 2003-2007 in Iraq alone, there were more than 3,000 attacks on convoys; in Afghanistan, one in 24 such attacks ended in an American casualty.

Second, the sheer amount of fuel our military consumes makes our security vulnerable to the volatile global oil market. Every time the price of oil rises by $10 a barrel, the military is left with a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, siphoning funds away from essential training and readiness missions. Worse, in attempting to keep the price of oil reasonably stable, we spend as much as $83 billion every year ensuring the supply and safe global transit of oil.

Our nation's military leaders have recognized these threats and are moving swiftly to diversify the fuels powering our vehicles, ships, and aircraft. California companies are helping the military meet these challenges. Solazyme, headquartered in the South Bay, created fuels out of algae that power Navy destroyers and aircraft. Fulcrum Bioenergy from Pleasanton was selected by the military last year to design a commercial size plant to produce fuels from municipal solid waste.

Of course, this isn't just a military problem. We are chained to the same volatile global market as our military, with the prices we pay at the pump determined by unrest in places far away. By diversifying our fuel supply, and bringing new choices to consumers, we'll be confronting the threat of our oil dependence.

By regulating carbon emissions from transportation fuels, California is leading the nation in breaking free from the bonds of oil dependence. The next few years will see technological and market innovations rise to meet the increased demand for low carbon alternatives. California legislators should not stand in the way of this progress: AB32 shouldn't be altered, for a more secure California.

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Michael Wu is the Energy Program Director for the Truman National Security Project and an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve Corps.

Andrea Marr is a member of the Truman Project's Defense Council, an energy efficiency engineer, and a former officer in the U.S. Navy.