Reducing America's Oil Dependence Will Reduce War

May 21, 2016
Like most Americans, I look forward to spending Memorial Day weekend barbequing with friends and relaxing at the beach. However, I almost daily think about my teammate, just one of the 6,867 service members killed overseas since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and reflect on what we fought for, the actual existential threat we face as a nation, and the convergence between the two.

America consumes a quarter of the world's oil produced, the equivalent of 19 million barrels a day, in the form of petroleum products like gasoline, heating oil, and plastics. Every major conflict the United States military has been engaged in for the past 25 years, with the exceptions of Bosnia and Kosovo, has protected this oil dependent lifestyle. The 1991 Persian Gulf War to protect then the world's largest oil reserves located in Saudi Arabia was followed by the 1995 reactivation of the Navy's Fifth Fleet to protect the flow of light crude oil through the Persian Gulf's, Red Sea's, and Arabian Sea's choke points. Our service members remaining in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War was a reason Osama Bin Laden gave for the 9/11 attacks which resulted in the past 15 years of war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, speculation remains that Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force's 10 meetings with energy representatives during the Bush Administration's opening months fueled the 2003 Iraq invasion which was the catalyst for today's Islamic State.

America's oil dependence has contributed to Saudi Arabia's wealth and extreme inequality which has led to the rise and Saudi financing of Wahhabism from Kosovo to India. Twenty-eight pages of the joint congressional inquiry possibly linking the Saudi government to the 9/11 attacks remains classified, but the Senate recently unanimously passed a bill exposing Saudi Arabia to lawsuits by the families of those killed. Saudi Arabia's upcoming Initial Public Offering of less than five percent of Aramco, their $2 trillion state-owned oil company, will only further the cycle of our service members protecting our oil dependent lifestyle from the non-existential threats oil revenue helps spawn like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Oil is an internationally traded commodity and therefore the technological innovations that allowed us to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer will not change these dynamics. Furthermore, Exxon Mobile, the world's largest publicly traded energy-company, projects global oil demand will grow to 109 million barrels a day by 2040.

Paradoxically, our oil consumption is making climate change, the only existential threat with the ability to change our physical borders, fiercer. As a harbinger of things to come, a $48 million federal grant has been allocated to resettle residents of Isle de Jean Charles in southeastern Louisiana due to rising tides. While New England's regional power grid remains the nation's most oil reliant, the New Hampshire Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission's recent draft report summarizes our coastal vulnerabilities from an expected sea level rise between 0.6 and 2.0 feet by 2050 and between 1.6 to 6.6 feet by 2100. Meanwhile, the National Renewable Energy Lab recently found roof top solar alone could support more than 40 percent of New Hampshire's electricity needs and it is well established that energy efficiency improvements are the cheapest energy source. The International Energy Agency projects global oil demand could drop by 22 percent to 74 barrels a day by 2040 if sustainable alternatives are pursued to avoid the most devastating climate change impacts.

I wear a KIA memorial bracelet to never forget my teammate's sacrifice. I have come to terms with me being alive and him not by trying to prevent other service members from dying for the same cause. As a city councilor, I will continue to advocate for sustainable initiatives like rooftop solar arrays downtown, building energy efficiency improvement programs, and even banning plastic grocery bags to raise awareness that most single-use plastics are petroleum based. As a veteran who proudly served alongside less than 1 percent of Americans, I will continue to offer my perspective on the ongoing 15 years of our military being at war.