The independent news organization of Duke University

Experts explain role of green energy in national security

Being green is vital to the United States’ national security—at least according to some experts.

Local energy experts and national security leaders urged the nation to consider the relationship between clean energy and national security at a University panel Thursday. Approximately 200 people—including many local professionals involved in the alternative energy industry—attended the event in Love Auditorium called “Critical Links Between Clean Energy, National Security,” featured a panel discussion and presentations.

Nicholas Institute Director Tim Profeta began the discussion by stressing that the dynamic between the economy, clean energy and national defense should be a priority and that the solution to the nation’s security concerns involves all three of these elements.

“The greatest imperative is to simply reduce the import of oil,” said Vikram Rao, a fellow panelist and executive director of the Research Triangle Energy Consortium.

By replacing conventional transport fuels with alternatives, new jobs will be created that could address both economic and environmental security, Rao added.

The event, which aimed to highlight the Department of Defense as a catalyst for energy innovation, was sponsored by the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and was organized by the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate, among other groups. The Pew Project has held more than 100 similar forums nationwide.

North Carolina is a particularly suitable place for clean energy initiatives due to its diverse array of resources including military bases, universities, diverse landscapes, as well as vibrant research and development industries, said Ivan Urlaub, panelist and executive director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association.

“We already have a good track record in the Triangle,” Urlaub said. “If you create the industry, investors will show up.”

The presentations stressed the urgent need for the government and individuals to take action.

Navy Adm. John Nathman discussed how America’s oil dependency can undermine national security, whether jeopardizing military missions or crippling foreign policy.

“We have no resilience,” Nathman said. “Oil prices went up during the Libya uprising even though we don’t import from them.”

Nathman also noted the U.S.’s struggle to compete with growing international economies.

”We cannot control the world-wide demand for oil, so how do we compete with India and China?” he said. “We pay more.”

Nathman added that he hopes more individuals, especially the younger generation, spearhead clean energy initiatives in their own lives rather than just waiting for the government to act. He said, for example, that loading an SUV with as many people as possible is more effective and energy-efficient than driving a hybrid car.

“If you can find 1,000 friends on Facebook, why can’t you find more friends to put in your vehicle?” he said.

Former U.S. Senator John Warner, R-V.A., said the government needs to be pressured to take action. Warner served as Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974.

“We as a nation have got to adopt a comprehensive legislation, which should be preceded by historic debates in the Senate,” Warner said. “No organization in the world uses more energy than the Department of Defense, and they use it to defend you.”

ICF International Project Manager Jeff Patterson, who attended the forum, said he was surprised that more people do not recognize clean energy’s importance to national security. Patterson has more than 30 years of experience in the Department of Defense as a member of the Marines.

“This should already be on ordinary people’s minds,” Patterson said.


Share and discuss “Experts explain role of green energy in national security” on social media.