Oped: Why clean energy means national security

As a veteran, I've served in a fight that was largely about oil. By passing clean energy legislation, Congress can promote national security — as well as jobs and a healthy climate.
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Rick Hegdahl

As a veteran, I've served in a fight that was largely about oil. By passing clean energy legislation, Congress can promote national security — as well as jobs and a healthy climate.

As a retired member of the U.S. Navy and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I've served in the line of duty in a conflict that was — in large part — about oil.

While I feel honored to have served my country, it is my sincere hope that we do all we can to keep from sending more of our young men and women inti harm's way. America can do this by making the shift away from fossil fuels and to clean, renewable energy and significantly reducing the pollution that causes global warming. I urge our Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to honor our veterans by leading the way.

To that end, in February I joined fellow veterans as part of the National Veterans for American Power Tour as we held events at the State Capitol and near the Space Needle, to ask our senators to do just that.

Make no mistake: climate change is a crucial national security issue. Global warming-related disasters such as droughts, wildfires and hurricanes are already increasing, and even the Pentagon is worried about the political instability those cataclysms create. Moreover, as we draw closer to the day when the world's oil reserves run out, the fights over what remains will only grow more bitter and deadly.

In these challenging times, we are all painfully aware of the threats to both our national and economic security. Our foreign affairs, defense policies, and economy are linked to energy policy through our dependence on foreign oil. We are sending billions of dollars overseas to pay for oil, leaving us vulnerable to unstable or hostile regimes. Our oil expenditures in 2008 broke down to equal $1.2 billion every day; $50 million every hour; $837,000 every minute; $14,000 every second.

Clean energy and climate policies will help us free ourselves from the perils of depending on foreign oil. Transitioning to a clean energy economy and improving the electricity grid would allow us to get our power from renewable sources here at home. By reducing our reliance on oil, we not only reduce our exposure to oil-related conflicts overseas, we will also give our energy dollars to a growing number of American business that are providing jobs in clean energy and energy efficiency.

If we spend our energy dollars here at home, we can expand our clean energy production and increase our use of renewable energy, creating millions of jobs that can't be outsourced.

Despite the current economic downturn, Washington's clean energy economy is still growing. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that our state's current clean energy policies alone could create 2,000 new green jobs by 2025.

Clean energy policies will save us money, too. According to another analysis, stronger energy saving standards and building codes could save approximately $750 per household nationwide by 2020 and $3,900 by 2030. Policies that invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency could cut the federal deficit by $24 billion through 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And, clean energy solutions would cost American households just a few dollars a month.

I have worked with leaders across the state who are working hard to make American energy independent. In late September, I participated in the Governor's Global Climate Summit with Gov. Chris Gregoire, who helped lead the way in calling for strong climate change policy. She stressed the importance of taking action now, and cited Washington's leadership in enacting energy efficiency and renewable standards in our state.

In June the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act and I applaud Representatives Brian Baird, Norm Dicks, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen, Jim McDermott, Dave Reichert and Adam Smith, for voting in favor of this bill as paramount for economic, environmental, and national security.

Now our senators have the opportunity to take that leadership to the national stage as a federal climate bill is under real consideration in the Senate. America has the opportunity to be a world leader in the new energy economy, taking control of our energy future and putting Americans back to work while also improving our national security. I urge Murray and Cantwell to show their commitment to myself and all other veterans by ensuring we pass national climate and energy legislation in the strongest possible form, immediately. We are counting on them to create more jobs, a cleaner environment, and greater national security by leading the rest of the Senate.


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