ASP’s New York Event: “Redefining Energy Security in the 21st Century”

posted by Andrew Holland on June 27, 2013 at 6:06 pm

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From left to right: Amy Davidsen, Adm. Gunn, Gen. Anderson, Gen. Cheney

On Tuesday, June 25, members of the American Security Project’s Board and the Consensus for American Security spoke at event during New York Energy Week, entitled “Redefining Energy Security for the 21st Century.” The event was cosponsored by The Climate Group and PwC. Approximately 100 people attended. The event was hosted at PwC’s global headquarters at 42nd St and Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

The event was introduced by Rahul Gupta, a Principal with PwC, moderated by Amy Davidsen, the Executive Director, US at The Climate Group, and featured Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, US Navy (Ret.), Brigadier General Steven Anderson, US Army (Ret.), and Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, US Marine Corps (Ret.). Together, the combined military experience of the speakers adds up to more than 95 years in the Armed Services. A full agenda and complete biographies for all speakers are available here.

The event coincided with the publication of an op-ed by Gunn, Anderson, and Cheney in Breaking Energy entitled “Redefining Energy Security in the 21st Century.”

The event started with an introduction from Mr. Gupta, acting as host. Mr. Gupta noted that this event was particularly timely because of President Obama’s speech earlier that day at Georgetown University announcing the details of his plan for addressing climate change. The speakers commented briefly on the speech, with Admiral Gunn saying the speech was important, from a national security perspective, because it offered a way forward, but General Anderson noted that, after the President’s speech, it was time to “show me the meat” on this issue and “roll up our sleeves” to get to work.

During the program, the speakers sought to dissuade the audience from believing that the growth of oil production in the United States automatically means that we are increasing our national security. Admiral Gunn noted that while technological development in US allows us to produce as much energy as we use, that does not mean we are energy independent. A global marketplace will ensure that our prices are determined more by global demand and the threat of conflict in the Middle East than by production at home. Furthermore, America’s commitments to its allies and the protection of global sea routes will ensure that we remain entwined in the affairs of oil producing regions, particularly around the Persian Gulf.

General Anderson stated that he is an “energy warrior” because he has seen the incredible cost of how the military uses energy.  The U.S. military, collectively, is the largest consumer of energy in the world, and consists of about 2% of America’s energy use. He noted that the monetary costs go further than that, saying that it costs about $50 per gallon to get fuel to the front line troops in Afghanistan. Even more importantly, Anderson noted that more than 1000 Americans have died transporting fuel over the last decade of war. These factors together should push the military to lead in developing renewable energy.

General Cheney followed next by noting that climate change is intimately entwined with how we use and produce energy. It is time for the country to realize that climate change is real, it is happening, and it is a threat to the national security of the United States.

The presenters noted that the greatest risk of the American energy boom is that our policymakers lose focus on the needed task of building a new energy economy. That means we cannot cut our research and development, nor can we afford to ignore climate change when we make our decisions about climate change and security.

After their discussion, the audience engaged in a lengthy Q&A sessions, with questions ranging from how the military can help promote a hydrogen economy (it can), to what the armed services are doing regarding energy efficient buildings (a lot), to what the military might look like in 10 years (it should be more lethal, less expensive, and more efficient – but that is highly uncertain).

You can read more about ASP’s work on energy security and climate change on ASP’s website.

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