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US Energy Use a National Security Threat: Study


WASHINGTON - US dependence on fossil fuels and a vulnerable electric grid pose a perilous threat to the country's national security, retired military officers warned Monday in a report.

The threat requires urgent action and the Defense Department should lead the way in transforming America's energy use by aggressively pursuing efficiency measures and renewable sources, said the report by CNA, a nonprofit research group.

"Our dependence on foreign oil reduces our international leverage, places our troops in dangerous global regions, funds nations and individuals who wish us harm, and weakens our economy," it said.

"The market for fossil fuels will be shaped by finite supplies and increasing demand. Continuing our heavy reliance on these fuels is a security risk," said the report titled "Powering America's Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security."

The authors, top ranked retired officers from the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, also point to the strained domestic electricity network as a possible hazard for US military bases.

"Our domestic electrical system is also a current and significant risk to our national security: many of our large military installations rely on power from a fragile electrical grid that is vulnerable to malicious attacks or interruptions caused by natural disasters," it said.

President Barack Obama's new administration needs to begin making energy and climate change goals a key element of all national security and military planning, the report said.

The report said diminishing supplies of oil combined with the impact of climate change would feed instability around the world.

"The effects of global climate change will pose serious threats to water supplies and agricultural production, leading to intense competition for essentials," said one of the officers behind the report, retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, former commander of the US Third Fleet.

"The US cannot assume that we will be untouched by these conflicts. We have to understand how these conflicts could play out, and prepare for them," he said in a statement.

Having to rely on fossil fuels has put a burden on the US military to ensure the flow of oil around the globe, and forces Washington to devote a vast amount of time and effort on oil-rich regimes, retired Air Force General Chuck Wald, former deputy chief of US European Command, said in the report.

"The problem is dependence, and by that I mean our hands are tied in many cases because we need something that others have -- we need their oil," Wald said.

But he said solving the problem was complicated and that calls for energy independence were unrealistic.

"The answer involves a sort of interdependence," Wald said. "We need a diversity of supply, for us and for everybody. We need clean fuels that are affordable and readily available, to us and to everybody."

To help lead the way to a new US energy "posture," the Defense Department should design more efficient systems to help troops overseas, understand its carbon "bootprint," pursue smart grid technology, electrify its vehicles, expand renewable energy generation at bases, and invest in low-carbon liquid fuels for the long-term, the report said.

By taking these steps, the Defense Department "could stimulate the market for new energy technologies and vehicle efficiencies," it said.

The Pentagon, acknowledging that the world's most powerful military relies heavily on access to foreign oil, says it has already launched a major strategic effort to reexamine how the military uses energy and sought to improve efficiency.

The department said in a 2008 report to Congress that it "is actively focused on initiatives to reduce energy demand, increase alternative sources of energy and ensure the energy gets to where it is needed reliably and efficiently."

The same military advisory board to CNA released a report in 2007 that described climate change as a "threat multiplier" that would aggravate security risks and conflicts over scarce resources.


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