Watching tens of thousands of gallons spew daily into the Gulf of Mexico, wreaking economic havoc and environmental catastrophe on the Gulf Coast, is only latest -- and the largest -- shock to our country courtesy of our addiction to and dependence on oil. Conservative estimates by both the government and independent scientists indicate that, to date, anywhere between 18 to 28 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf since this disaster started.
When it comes to the U.S. and oil, however, here is the number that really scares me: Americans send one billion dollars a day overseas to pay for oil, most of it flooding a global oil market that enriches hostile governments, funds terrorist organizations, and props up repressive regimes. I can tell you one thing for certain--this is not in our national security interest.
America's reliance on oil is our Achilles heel. We desperately need a comprehensive energy strategy--one that cuts our addiction to fossil fuels, boosts clean energy technology, and moves our nation dramatically towards energy independence. It is vital to our national security, to the safety of our men and women in uniform, and to the fight against terrorism. The bottom line is this--we must put America in control of its energy future.
Just take a look at Iran, a country that is not typically described these days as a "friend" of the United States. This past week, General Stanley McChrystal, the U.S./NATO Commander in Afghanistan, announced publicly that Afghan insurgents are being trained and armed inside Iran. Until we pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, like the American Power Act introduced by Senator John Kerry earlier this month, we miss the opportunity to deprive this hostile regime of $100 million a day in oil revenue. This money is being used to train enemy fighters and buy the weapons that are used to kill our own troops.
Think about that for a second... because of our addiction to oil, we are funding both sides of the conflicts we have sent the young men and women of the US military to fight. General James T. Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps, put it quite succinctly: "energy choices can save lives on the battlefield."
Over the past year, I have had the honor of joining with veterans and senior military leaders from around the country as part of Operation Free--a national coalition of hundreds of veterans and other leading national security organizations, who have come together with one simple mission: to secure America with clean energy.
The veterans of Operation Free have seen firsthand in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere the real costs of our failed energy policy. These men and women have crisscrossed the country by bio-diesel powered bus--over 25,000 miles in all--telling their stories in town halls big and small about the need to end our dependence on oil and what the grave consequences to our national security will be if we do not.
This past May 5th, Operation Free released a letter to the United States Senate that stated, "America's billion-dollar-a-day dependence on oil makes us vulnerable to unstable and unfriendly regimes." This letter was signed by 33 former Generals and Admirals. In its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR)-- which underpins all national security planning for the U.S. government--the Pentagon, for the first time, addressed the implications that energy and climate change are having on our national security.
Our military understands the threat, but frankly, it is not enough. Congress must act. Without legislation from Congress, too many sectors of our economy and our country will continue to stagger along using the dirty fuels of our past. This is not a problem that can wait for future generations to solve. It is imperative that our elected representatives solve this problem now--this year--and enact comprehensive clean energy legislation that will put American power back to work.