Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Energy, Climate, Security, and Optics in Obama's Speech

Today, President Obama gave a speech (which you could have watched live here on this blog) that was billed by the White House as a speech on "Energy Security and Independence".  I'm not sure that the actual announcement today that the US will open more of its Outer Continental Shelf to offshore drilling was that important, and I'll leave it to others to argue about how the policy change will do much good or bad for climate legislation.

However, the optics of today's speech are probably the most important part of it. By holding the event at Andrew's Air Force Base, in front of a (clean, green) F/A-18 'Green Hornet' fighter jet the administration is signaling that they are going to treat energy security and climate change policy as the security threat that it is.  The President was speaking directly to a group of servicemen who probably will all spend at least one tour of duty in the oil-rich Middle East as a direct result of our energy dependence.  Hopefully, this is only the beginning of a series of Presidential events that will show how climate change and energy dependence create threats to our national security.    

It is important that this 'securitization' of energy and climate policy is not done cynically.  If the Administration has decided that the only way to pass a comprehensive climate bill is by wrapping it in the flag, then it is not worth doing.  However, we know, through the good work that the CNA corporation has done in preparing it's “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change” and "Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security"  reports that this is an issue that is critically important to our national security.  Since the first report, released in 2007, other important reports from the National Intelligence Council, the DoD, and others have comprehensively linked American national security to our dependence on foreign energy, and the looming instability of climate change.  However, the CNA's reports also show a good way forward.  They suggest that the achieving energy security is possible but it requires strong leadership. The Green Hornet on display behind the President today shows how DoD can be a leader by becoming an early adopter and a test bed for new technologies, especially low-carbon fuels.

President Obama today showed that he gets this linkage:
"For decades we’ve talked about how our dependence on foreign oil threatens our economy -– yet our will to act rises and falls with the price of a barrel of oil. When gas gets expensive at the pump, suddenly everybody is an energy expert. And when it goes back down, everybody is back to their old habits.

For decades we’ve talked about the threat to future generations posed by our current system of energy –- even as we can see the mounting evidence of climate change from the Arctic Circle to the Gulf Coast. And this is particularly relevant to all of you who are serving in uniform: For decades, we’ve talked about the risks to our security created by dependence on foreign oil, but that dependence has actually grown year after year after year after year."
The question now is whether he can sell it to the American people. 

No comments:

Post a Comment