Reducing oil consumption is a national security issue

By Sen. Steve Hobbs

As an Iraq War Veteran with 20 years of military service, Veterans Day has special meaning to me. It’s a time when I reflect on my service and the service of others who have protected our nation in times of crises and conflict. As a father of three sons, I want them to have the freedoms and quality of life that I swore to protect.

As a state senator, I try to find ways to strengthen our national security and link that to positive public policy. That’s why this Veterans Day I look to decreasing our dependence on foreign oil and the devastating effects of climate change to protect my brothers and sisters overseas who continue to fight for our freedoms.

But I’m not the only one who feels this way. The Center for Naval Analysis conducted an innovative study in 2007 by bringing together 11 retired generals to assess the threat of climate change on American interests. These generals were not environmentalists — some were quite skeptical of climate change — but upon seeing the evidence, they concluded that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that should require the full attention of the Department of Defense and the U.S. government to act before it is too late.

The national security situation is dire. Hundreds of billions of dollars are sent overseas to pay for imported oil from unstable regions rife with international conflict. For every $5 increase in a barrel of oil, Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gains $7.9 billion a year in oil profits to fund terrorist organizations and to advance Iran’s nuclear weapons programs.

Heavy use of fossil fuels also causes climate change and disruption, resulting in water shortages, famines and mass migrations — all with national security implications. The instability brought on by climate disruption often attracts the attention of terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida.

But there’s a lot we can do in America to decrease pollution and increase security.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation announced the intent to set fuel economy and global warming pollution standards for vehicles in model years 2017-2025.

Recognizing that raising fuel efficiency standards would significantly reduce America’s addiction to foreign oil, I joined the Sierra Club, Gov. Chris Gregoire and a coalition of organizations and government officials statewide in urging the Obama administration to move ahead with setting the strongest fuel efficiency standards possible.

In early September, I urged the administration to set standards that require new passenger cars and trucks to average at least 60 miles per gallon in 2025, emit no more than 143 grams of global warming pollution per mile and to improve fuel efficiency in long-haul trucks by at least 35 percent by 2017.

These standards for cars and trucks together will reduce our national oil consumption by as much as 49 billion gallons of oil in 2030. For Washington’s car drivers, the standards can cut oil use by more than one billion gallons, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

New vehicle standards will ensure we put American ingenuity to work making America a leader in developing clean cars and trucks and helping end unfriendly nations’ stranglehold on our economy. Better yet, reducing our dangerous dependence on oil will help to cut off resources to terrorists who harm our men and women in uniform.

The Obama administration is now drafting what could be truly transformative new standards for the next generation of cars and trucks, and I hope they will demonstrate their leadership on climate change and breaking America’s dangerous addiction to oil by raising the bar on fuel efficiency to 60 mpg by 2025 for cars, and setting tough new standards for work trucks and trucks that haul freight.

Reducing our dependence on oil is not just a good environmental policy — it’s a good national security policy.

State Sen. Steve Hobbs is a Democrat from Lake Stevens.