The Dominant Global Security Issue Is Still Fossil Fuels. Climate change policies, while well-intentioned, can severely impact economic and national security.

March 23, 2023

Originally published by The National Interest. Written by Don Ritter.

The president of the United States says climate change is the greatest threat faced by our country and the world. It’s a greater threat than nuclear war, he insists. To counter this asserted threat, his administration calls for significant investment in sustainable clean energy while rapidly cutting back on our usage of fossil fuels.

Ironically, the proposed solution of eliminating necessary fossil fuels to mitigate climate change actually reduces our ability to protect our homeland and project peace through strength worldwide. Further, it profoundly weakens America by creating an imminent crisis for the two main pillars of a nation’s power: our economy and our military.

Let’s start with the latter. Fossil fuels are the lifeblood of American military power and serve numerous purposes. Every iota of military equipment needs fossil fuels to be manufactured and run: from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals to make thousands of plastic components for infinite uses; to mining and processing minerals into thousands of steel and aluminum alloys for trucks, tanks, guns, aircraft, and artillery; to copper and non-ferrous metals for wires and shell casings; to processing minerals and chemicals into gunpowder and other explosives; to creating and powering the semiconductor chips for increasingly energy-hungry electronic equipment that is part and parcel of all modern weaponry; to producing and shipping food for members of our Armed Services all over the world.

Yet despite this reality, the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats are spending hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars on deficit-increasing, investment-directing, market-skewing solar, wind, battery-storage, biofuel, and other green energy schemes. Given the overwhelming dependence of our military on fossil fuels, this diversion of investment will wreak havoc on America’s readiness and defense industrial base.

Moreover, where does the lion’s share of raw materials for wind turbines, solar panels, batteries—and the high-tech equipment to produce these items—come from? The answer is China, along with China-invested African mines that are notorious for using child labor, having horrendous working conditions, and holding virtually no concern for the environment.

America has bounteous oil, gas, and coal at home. It lacks the critical materials that go into wind, solar, batteries, and weapons only because we have made most mining areas off-limits and the administration has denied almost every proposed mining project.

While the push for renewables may be popular in politics, it is problematic in practice. Reliance on our adversaries is detrimental to our national security.

America will be forced to import vital materials from insecure, adversarial nations, making us dangerously and unnecessarily dependent on foreign sources. China has the technologies, (often stolen from the West) and the materials for dominating “renewables”—solar, wind, and battery industries. Add Russia as China’s oil and gas station plus raw materials supplier, and China makes a dramatic leap in both military and economic capabilities. Sino-Russian collaboration could well become globally dominant over a fossil fuel-disarming America and West.

Furthermore, Russia, acting alone, is able to invade a large, sovereign European nation—even though Russia’s economy is nominally smaller than Italy’s when measured using GDP—a mere 3 percent of the United States plus Europe. How is that possible? Because Russia has, produces, uses, and sells oil, gas, and coal, giving it energy dominance now and into the future. Russia’s war on Ukraine is being paid for by its fossil fuel revenues, while energy-weakened Europe reopens 27 coal plants to make up for the lost natural gas from Russia, still bans fracking, and prays for more warm winters.

Common sense dictates that America reverse its anti-fossil fuel, climate-obsessed policies, and pursue a future that is “all-of-the-above” energy that insures economic, technological, and national security reality. Anything less betrays, not only our men and women defenders in our Armed Forces, but all of us.

Don Ritter holds a Science Doctorate from MIT and served fourteen years on the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce and Science and Technology Committees. After leaving Congress he created and led the National Environmental Policy Institute. He was a National Academy of Sciences Fellow in the USSR, speaks fluent Russian, and was a Ranking Member of the Congressional Helsinki Commission and founding Co-Chair of the Baltic States-Ukraine Caucus. Don is a Trustee of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and Museum and Co-chairs its Capital Campaign.

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