Volatile fuel and fertilizer prices, national security threats, economic instability and global warming are just some of the challenges we face because of our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.
From across the political spectrum, Americans are uniting to address these challenges. Farmers, national security experts, faith communities, environmentalists and labor unions are joining together to win visionary public policies that move our nation toward clean, renewable and secure energy resources produced here at home.
Continued dependence on oil constitutes a clear and present danger to our national security ?economically, militarily and diplomatically. The United States consumes 25 percent of the world’s annual petroleum production and depends on oil to supply 97 percent of its transportation fuels. Yet the U.S. holds only 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves, while two-thirds of reserves are situated in that core of global instability, the Persian Gulf.
So we must rely on foreign energy sources, many of them from unstable or hostile regimes, to provide us with our economic lifeblood and quality of life. Think about that for a minute. Our ability to heat our homes, run our cars to get us to work, operate our industry, grow our food and even power our military depends on a resource mostly controlled by governments not necessarily friendly to America.
Fossil fuels pose another long-term security threat. When we burn oil to fuel cars or coal to provide electricity to our homes, we emit dangerous levels of global-warming pollution causing climate change. Today, there is more global-warming pollution in the atmosphere than at any other time over the past 650,000 years. The Western U.S. has a special stake in taking steps to reduce this pollution. Recent research identifies the West as one of the world’s global-warming hotspots. With increasing extremes of drought and drenching storms, the West could be whipsawed between water shortages and wildfires on one hand, and floods and mudslides on the other.
As a nation, we must rise to these clear and compelling challenges to our economic and environmental security with resolute action. Technology already exists that can begin to move our great country to much greater levels of energy efficiency, and beyond oil and coal to clean, abundant, reliable forms of energy such as ethanol, biodiesel, windpower and solar. American farms in particular can become significant clean-energy producers. We can start moving in the right direction today with a broad, inclusive energy policy backed by active citizen participation.
There is a moral dimension to this as well. The poorest people in the world are already being affected by global warming in the form of droughts, famine, and increased disease and storms. Air pollution exacerbates asthma among all our children, and disproportionately affects poor children. Mercury poisoning from coal-fired power plants hurts the unborn. For those of us who believe we are called to stewardship of the planet and care for the less fortunate among us, developing cleaner energy sources is a moral imperative.
Throughout our history, Americans have successfully met critical challenges in both war and peace. Building a new, clean-energy economy is one of the great challenges of our time. Together we can move our nation toward clean and secure energy supplies with policies that promote energy efficiency and the greatly increased use of renewable energy. As they have in our nation’s past struggles, America’s farmers will play a key role in winning the energy victory
The seventh annual Harvesting Clean Energy Conference taking place in Boise, Idaho, Jan. 28-30 will be a meeting ground for people interested in learning more about agriculture can make a significant contribution to providing clean and secure energy for the nation. For more, go to www.harvestcleanenergy.org.
Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn (ret.) will keynote the Harvesting Clean Energy Conference with a talk on how American agriculture can help build national energy security. McGinn is a former Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Director of Naval Aviation Warfare, Third Fleet Commander and test pilot. He now heads the Battelle Energy, Transportation and Environment Division.