“Continued over reliance on fossil fuels, or small, incremental steps, simply will not create the kind of future security and prosperity that the American people and our great Nation deserve.” — Retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn
On Tuesday, President Obama nominated someone who understands the importance of renewable energy to be the next Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment. Retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn is currently the President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, and has articulated a reasoned military approach to cutting down on fossil fuel dependency while moving toward clean, reliable renewable energy.
Why is the Navy pursuing net-zero energy policies? As the Director of the Navy’s 1 Gigawatt Task Force, Kerry Gilpin, said in April:
“The real reason we’re doing this is very simple. Secretary Mabus has set two priorities: energy security and energy independence.… Basically we don’t like having vulnerable supply lines … that are not difficult to disrupt. All threats, right? Natural disasters, manmade — anything that could threaten our ability to do our critical missions presents a problem for us.”
Military leaders have come under attack from Senators like James Inhofe when they state the obvious: climate change is happening and the military will bear much of the burdens from dealing with climate impacts, and transitioning from dirty, expensive fossil fuels to clean renewable energy makes the military more self-sufficient and cuts costs.
McGinn has long been an advocate for this transition away from fossil fuels, referring to reports such as this 2007 CNA report titled, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” which lays out the ways in which climate change is a “threat multiplier” around the globe.
He also served on the CNA Military Advisory Board that released the 2009 report “Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security.” This report considered the risks that American energy policy posed to national security, how climate change affects both of these things, and finally “the role the Department of Defense can play in the nation’s approach to energy security and climate change.”
McGinn’s wealth of experience, featuring a 35-year Navy career that included being a test pilot and aircraft carrier commanding officer, paired with his recent expertise in the impact climate change and energy choices have on national security make his nomination to lead energy, installations, and environment efforts at the Navy extremely interesting.
His recent op-eds show even more clearly how military minds can view the feasibility of renewable energy:
September 2012: “It’s long past time to move beyond the accusatory politics of misrepresented facts and return to the bipartisan collaborative spirit that has driven clean energy’s success in this country. With less bad politics and more good policy, the sector can rapidly expand and make America a world leader in clean, renewable energy technology.”
April 2013: “For many years renewable energy has been treated as a political punching bag in American politics. Americans hear false claims that renewable energy is a government-dependent energy source that forces taxpayers to spend more of their hard-earned money on electric bills. This misinformation, perpetuated by so-called ‘free market’ champions like Grover Norquist is being disseminated in an attempt to halt the successful growth of renewable energy and to ensure that America stays dependent on dirty energy sources. Yet, all across the country, in places like Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas and Virginia, an overwhelming majority of Americans — Democrat and Republican, pro-business and pro-environment — support renewable energy.”
July 2013: “It is time all of us take a hard look at every aspect of America’s energy future and see things the way they really are. Renewable energy is an energy security and economic game-changer and needs to be treated as such. From private investment to gigawatt-scale power, clean energy is truly powering a new golden age of American energy development. It’s time for our policymakers to act and help make renewable energy’s unmatched potential a reality.”