For a lot of the folks who voted for Barack Obama, promoting "national security" means weaning ourselves from dirty fuel sources.
For the man Obama tapped as his national security advisor, James L. Jones, things aren’t so clear cut, Robert Dreyfuss reports in The Nation.
Over the course of a long military career, James established himself as a paid-up member of the national security establishment. Before retiring from the Marines in 2007, he served as the commander of the U.S. European Command and also the supreme allied commander in Europe, i.e. leader of NATO.
What he did next will please few Grist readers, especially those who criticized the Bush administration for its ties to the oil industry: Not pausing to let the revolving door hit him on the ass on the way out, Jones immediately joined the boards of Chevron and Boeing, Dreyfuss reports. He also became president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. The group’s agenda makes dismal reading. To wit:
The restrictions we have placed on the production of our own domestic oil and natural gas resources are a significant self-inflicted wound to our security and prosperity. The limitations and moratorium on exploration and production of domestic resources on our lands and on the Outer Continental Shelf must permanently end, and the states must be able to share in royalties collected from such production.
In other words, "drill, baby, drill." And while we’re at it, let’s use government policy to crank up nuclear power production.
Nuclear power is currently the least cost and largest source of zero-emissions baseload electricity. It must be significantly expanded. To do so, the federal government’s partnership with the private sector must be enhanced to accelerate this revival. The existing federal Loan Guarantee Program, funded by fees levied on the applicants, should be expanded to support more than just two or three plants. We must also provide a durable waste strategy once and for all.
But let’s not let coal get lost in our rush to drill oil and generate nuclear power: "We can and must use our vast domestic coal reserves in a clean and environmentally responsible manner." But isn’t "clean coal" decades off and in need if billions in R&D, even under optimistic scenarios? Yes; but that just means that the invisible hand of the market must dip into the public trough:
Specifically, we believe that an average of $20 billion over 10 years should be devoted to develop and demonstrate the full range of clean coal technologies, with half coming from the federal government and half from the private sector through a small fee on fossil-based utilities.
Chillingly, Jones himself explicitly tied the Institutes’s agenda to national security in a speech in June 2007.
Moreover, Jones seems to believe — like members of the outgoing administration — that America’s energy dilemmas can and must be addressed militarily. As global petroleum supplies dwindle, Africa and its large oil reserves becomes the jewel of a new Great Game. Here’s Dreyfuss:
As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Jones also sought increased engagement of US and NATO forces in Africa, and he strongly supported creation of the controversial new US Africa Command. "Africa is a continent of growing strategic importance," he said. Two years before the establishment of that command, Jones was enthusiastic. "My staff at EUCOM spends more than half of its time on African issues," he acknowledged.
In a sense, Jones and his Chamber of Commerce allies are correct: We can’t achieve "national security" until we solve our energy woes. But recommitting to gunboat geopolitics and dirty energy sources seems insane, especially given the experiences of the last eight years.