Military leaders are increasingly connecting the dots between energy, climate and national security issues. We’ve reported here before on the U.S. military’s push to go green with solar, biofuels and other renewable technologies.
Across the pond, defense leaders in the United Kingdom have also made energy and climate a top priority. Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti is the United Kingdom’s climate and energy security envoy. He was scheduled to speak last week at a public forum on energy and security issues hosted by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.
Midwest Energy News spoke with Morisetti last week before his visit to Minnesota. The following is a transcript of our conversation, with slight edits made for clarity and conciseness.
How and when did you first start to think about energy and climate change as national security issues?
I think there’s been a growing awareness and their relationships over the last five or six years. A report was written in 2007 by CNA, a Washington-based think tank. Their military advisory board did a piece on climate change and the impact on national security. Subsequently they’ve done some work on energy as well.
There are a number of issues that will impact our secure, sustainable and affordable supplies of key natural resources — energy, water, things that we need for economic prosperity. In the case of energy [those issues may include] supply and demand, geophysical events, Arab Spring, issues today around the Strait of Hormuz, the outcome of natural disasters and events like Fukushima last year.
There’s also a recognition that the consequences of climate change can increase the risk of instability in those parts of the world that are already suffering from stresses, parts of the world where we’ve seen conflict. It’s a belt the size of the equator up through the tropics. It runs around though Africa, Asia, South America, and it’s a part of the world where we get our oil and gas. It’s where the trade routes and particularly where the energy routes run.
As the head of the British military said at the end of last year in a keynote speech, his greatest fear about national security is about not having economic growth and prosperity. The point being, in all our societies, key to our security and well being, as opposed to simply national borders, is economic prosperity. With that in mind, in both our countries, in the 2010 QDR defense review here and in the UK’s strategic defense security review in the same year, we started to factor in these issues of the impact of climate change as a threat multiplier, as a risk multiplier, not least as it impacts on sustainable supplies of energy.
What are some of the ways in which our energy choices affect national security today?
[The U.S.] imports somewhere in the region of a billion dollars of energy every day, coming in from parts of the world that we have seen instability, where as a result prices have gone up. We saw it in Libya last year. We paid about an $18 a barrel premium. We’re seeing it with issues in Iran today, but also Libya’s production isn’t back yet. It’s down in Sudan. It’s down in Yemen. It’s down in Syria. And all that is doing is pushing the price up.
We need to be more energy efficient, to make better use of energy that’s in our own countries. I know you can say there’s lots of oil and gas in America, but these are global markets and the price is only going in one direction, as you can see from the price of gas at the pump. This morning’s New York Times was talking about how $5 a gallon gas isn’t far away. But even if you just use the resources in your own country, your oil and gas, the challenge of course is because it’s a global market and the supplies are sent to those who pay the most, you’re still paying a high price.
A new relationship with energy is what we’re trying to achieve, and that’s the same in the military. We’ve always used a lot of energy. It’s a big component of our expenditure. We’ve had to develop energy strategy, because if we don’t we won’t be able to afford to deliver some of our military outputs that are so essential.