“To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”
These were the words of a great American president and soldier, Theodore Roosevelt, in his seventh yearly address to congress in December 1907.
Teddy Roosevelt believed deeply that conservation was patriotic and that as Americans we must be responsible stewards of our nation’s natural resources and lands.
Today, as American soldiers engage an enemy in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan, the framework for another battle is taking form right here in the deserts of Southern California.
It is a campaign that also has been joined by America’s veterans and very clearly echoes the words of Roosevelt. It is the campaign to protect the California desert and ensure that responsible development and placement of renewable energy projects continue.
Senator Diane Feinstein introduced the 2010 California Desert Protection Act in December of 2009. The legislation is ambitious, pragmatic, bi-partisan and comprehensive in seeking to bring all vested parties to the table.
On it’s face one would read the title of Senator Feinstein’s legislation and could muse, “What does this have to do with renewable energy? The facts are simple. This legislation is as crucial to renewable energy as it is to expanding and safeguarding the regions national parks.
California is arguably the nation’s leader in renewable energy. In September of 2009, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed sweeping legislation to mandate that the state increase California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 33 percent by the year 2020.
This builds on AB 32 signed into law in 2006, which aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. This shift away from traditional fossil fuels to power our society will not only save our environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil but it will also create jobs.
The facts on renewable energy and job creation are clear. The University of California conducted a recent study, which estimates that 86,370 new energy jobs can be created in the United States by 2020 if we continue with our current combination of energy sources.
However, if 20 percent of our energy resources come from renewable assets we could easily see 188,000 to 240,850 jobs created in line with the percentage of solar, biomass and wind energy development projects that are in demand.
The job creation from renewable energy sources will offer employment opportunities to skilled knowledge workers and will create not only an American manufacturing base but will also locate these projects in areas of the country that have been hit hard by the current recession. One area that could see an infusion of these projects is the desert region of Southern California as well as the bordering area of Clark County, Nevada. These are prime locations for both more solar and wind projects.
The veteran’s community has welcomed the possibilities of renewable energy development and job growth with open arms. One example of this is Veterans Green Jobs.
This program currently has operations in four states that train veterans in everything from commercial/industrial energy efficiency to renewable technology and installation. Since inception, the program has secured over US$10 million in contracts with the state of Colorado and developed corporate partnerships with Wal-Mart and Whole Foods.
America’s veterans see that renewable energy is not only an important component of strengthening our national security but also a vital link for them as they return to the workforce after military service.
California Desert Protection Act of 2010 and Renewable Energy
In its current form the California Desert Protection Act of 2010 will be a conduit for laying the groundwork for more renewable energy projects, helping California to achieve it’s ambitious 2020 goals. More specifically, the bill achieves the goal of developing renewable projects through the following:
1. Establishing a more detailed process to terminate the backlog of renewable energy proposals on federal lands
This process would apply to both the federal government and also the entities that apply for the leases. It will create a more streamlined application process that would be accomplished by rewarding leases to applicants who have completed the required planning and studies.
The current system utilizes an inefficient first come, first serve process where applicants are afforded more time to complete the review and study process often dragging the lease award date out for months. This has caused a considerable lag in the time for awarding the lease and a backlog with regard to applicants.
2. Develop a comprehensive plan to develop renewable energy on Federal Land
This segment of the bill would mandate that that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Defense (DOD) as well as the U.S. Forest Service engage in developing Programmatic Environmental Impact Statements of the prospects of renewable energy projects on federal territory.
Also of importance is the fact that these statements would identify what is in the public interest and where these programs can be fast tracked.
3. Mandate that the Department of Defense (DOD) research Renewable Energy Potential
This segment of the bill engages the DOD to research the possibility of utilizing renewable energy programs on military installations in the Southwestern United States. These installations often have thousands of acres of land that have been disturbed and would be ideal locations for renewable projects. Currently, the DOD has a goal to develop 25 percent of all energy from renewable sources by 2025.
It is clear that this legislation will play a very prominent role in the future of renewable energy in the southwestern United States. Also, the legislation could be looked upon nationally by policy makers in the environmental, energy and defense communities as a procedural guide. The impacts of the renewable piece of the legislation will undoubtedly have a lasting impact not only on California and the southwest but nationally as well.
The veteran’s community and the national security establishment have joined the debate over clean energy and climate change.
Who is more qualified to discuss this issue than those who will be called upon to deal with the aftershocks of a world that is in upheaval and unrest due to rising sea levels on the coast of Africa or economic meltdown and proceeding wars for resources such as oil?
Retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn in 2009 testified before congress that “climate change has the potential to create sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale and at a frequency far beyond those we see today. The consequences of these disasters will likely foster political instability where societal demands for the essentials of life exceed the capacity of governments to cope.”
The threat of climate change and energy dependence is real and the national security community is moving to deal with the problem. Former CIA Director James Woolsey said that by continuing it’s dependence on foreign oil the United States is “funding both sides of the war on terror.”
The 2010 Department of Defense Quadrennial Review recently highlighted climate change and energy dependence as “threat multipliers” and listed these as primary threats facing our country today. The report is a legislatively mandated assessment of policy and longitudinal planning by the Department of Defense.
Petro-Dollars and National Security
Who gets the oil money that is spent by the US consumer? This is not a state secret and one can find this information rather easily; it's as easy as doing a Google search.
The United States is the largest importer of oil in the world. In dollars, America imports over a billion dollars of crude oil a day. The largest energy trading partner and exporter to our nation is Canada. However, second, is Saudi Arabia. Nineteen of the twenty-one hijackers on September 11th were from Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi’s have been state sponsors of financing and promoting Wahhabism throughout the Middle East. This sect of Islam is very noteworthy because it has restored the concept of jihad, or holy war as a mainstream or acceptable practice. The Saudi’s have also funded madrasah’s across the Middle East where this form of Islam is taught to impressionable young men.
Fourth on the list of oil exporters to the United States is Venezuela. A dictator, Hugo Chavez, who has been linked to terrorism, cavorted with the United States strongest foes and has been openly obstructionist towards our foreign policy, governs the country. The country has a state owned oil company that also operates thousands of gas stations in the United States under the name Valero.
Although Iran exports very little oil to the United States it is the fourth largest producer in the world. Iran has been one of the leading funders of international terrorism as well as a consistent foe of the United States. Their president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for the total destruction of Israel and is an open denier of the Holocaust.
Iran has also engaged in operations to undermine the United States military operation in Iraq by importing professionally crafted factory munitions into the country. These devices, known as Explosively Formed Projectiles or EFP’s have been used against our troops. These devices are far more lethal than Improvised Explosice Devices or IED’s which are usually constructed from available materials and made by amateur bomb makers.
Even more unsettling is the fact that for every one-dollar rise in the price in of crude oil Iran sees a one billion dollar windfall profit. In lieu of these facts citizens need to ask themselves, is this where we want our money going? There are more sound alternatives.
Why Veterans Should Support the Legislation
As illustrated, there are many reasons why veterans should support this legislation. At its core, Senator Feinstein’s bill addresses the pressing needs of renewable energy especially with regard to the needs of the DOD in Southern California. Renewable energy is not only the future of the military it is the future of America.
With over two million veterans in California the bill also addresses many quality of life issues as well as economic incentives. In its current form the bill will create two new national monuments. This is very important to look at with regard to tourism and visitors to the region.
Over an average one-year period California logs 6.7 million total visitor recreation days in the desert territory. Recreationists also spend over US$230 million each year in the area. These are important figures for veterans and their families as they continuously stimulate the regions economy and provide an infrastructure to continue a peaceful quality of life for those that make the desert their home.
This legislation is important and could very easily safeguard these lands for the next generation. Veterans know this and it is important that they are involved. Teddy Roosevelt would agree.
Image credit: Veterans Green Jobs
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