Posted by: JohnnyRook | December 2, 2008

Obama NSA Appointee has Ties to Chevron and U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Climaticide is a national security issue, potentially the biggest national security problem we face. Consequently, anyone concerned about global warming also needs to be concerned about the qualifications of the person who occupies the post of National Security Advisor. And, unfortunately, there are reasons for concern.

Yesterday, Barack Obama announced a number of cabinet post appointments, most prominent of which was Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. I am certain that Clinton’s appointment will cause some controversy, but it’s the appointment, of retired Wikipedia“>Marine Corps General James L. Jones as National Security Advisor that I wish to discuss today.

I have no problem with General Jones’s military qualifications, which appear to be outstanding. Rather it is his position on global warming and his ties to industry and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization notorious for its opposition to taking serious action on Climaticide that concerns me.

General Jones is currently the head of a policy organization sponsored by the USCC known as the Institute for 21st Century Energy. Since its inception roughly 18 months ago the Institute has issued a number of papers on energy policy. These papers purport to put forth an energy plan for the United States, but in reality their recommendations are nothing more than an all-of-the-above list, which is usually nothing more than a paying of lip service to sustainable energy while keeping discussion of continued use of fossil fuels on the table. For more info see A. Siegel’s analysis here.

Additionally, General Jones serves on the Board of Directors of several companies:

General Jones joined the Board of Directors of The Boeing Company on June 21, 2007. He serves on the company’s Audit and Finance Committees.

On May 28, 2008, General Jones was elected to the board of directors of Chevron Corporation.

The General was also a McCain advisor as A. Siegel has pointed out. Given General Jones’s close association with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the McCain campaign, which was completely hypocritical about its commitment to sustainable energy, one might be excused for having doubts about the sincerity of the General’s convictions when it comes to renewable, sustainable energy.

In an attempt to understand where General Jones stands not simply on energy policy but also on global warming (a term by the way, as far as I can tell, he never uses, I have gone through and read all the speeches (at least those available on the Institute’s web site) he has given since becoming head of the Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Below I give selections along with the speeches along with my commentary. I have not included the speeches in their entirety. Much of what the general says, in the abstract, would be acceptable to any climate activist. I have generally omitted such comments which the reader can find by going to the web site and reading the whole speech. Speeches are identified by the date on which they were given. My comments are in italics in parenthesis.

9/30/08

We have demanded more energy, and then restricted energy exploration and production.

We have expressed concerns about possible brownouts or blackouts, and then opposed the construction of new power plants or transmission lines.

[Sounds like a call for oil and gas exploration and new coal-fired power plants.]

But for too many decades, the government has been taking energy options off the table. It has placed 85 percent of our oil and gas reserves off limits, underinvested in research needed to get clean energy sources into the marketplace, and constructed a regulatory framework that prevented new infrastructure from being built.

[Drill, Baby, Drill! By all means lets drill all our oil and gas reserves even though that will contribute to further global warming and do next to nothing to solve our energy problems.]

The United States can no longer afford this approach. We are at a turning point when it comes to energy. Global demand for energy will increase by more than 50 percent between now and 2030 – and by as much as 30 percent here in the United States. And we must find new, viable and clean sources of energy to meet this surge in demand.

These energy projections are based on a business as usual (BAU) scenario. Business as usual scenarios will lead to catastrophic climate change. Why would an organization proposing energy solutions even consider such a possibility?

This constant phasing-in and phasing-out of tax credits limits capital formation and investment in advancing these technologies. So we are recommending these credits be extended for eight years and then phased out over the succeeding four years. This will provide a steady window of certainty and opportunity, while also ensuring that these technologies ultimately succeed or not based on their own commercial merits.

[Remember this comment. Will come back to it in a minute.]

In addition to better developing and utilizing renewable energy sources, we need to better utilize some of the abundant traditional sources of energy that we have here in the United States.

[Can you say COAL children?]

Coal is currently responsible for generating more than half of our nation’s electricity. And at our current usage rates, there is enough coal in our reserves to last for well over 200 years.

[By which time CO2 will be at 2000ppm or more]

The challenge is using coal in an environmentally-responsible manner. To do that, we must develop carbon capture and storage technologiess that will allow us to use coal while minimizing air pollution and CO2 emissions.

This technology has great promise, but is also complex and expensive. So we are recommending increased support by both the federal government and the private sector for R & D into these technologies, so that their progress can be accelerated.

[Clean coal does not exist. At this point there are only a very few small-scale CCS demonstration projects going on world wide. It is unlikely to ever be commercially viable both because of economics (CCS destroys any economic advantage that coal might have) and technological problems. It would take infrastructure the size of our current oil extraction infrastructure to be feasible]

At the same time, we must also recognize that we cannot innovate or conserve our way out of this crisis. To fuel America’s economic growth, we’re going to need more oil and gas and we are going to need for a long time to come. And our economic and national security interests are going to be much better served if we have access to our abundant domestic sources.

[Again it’s Drill Baby Drill!]

Unfortunately, for several decades now, government policies have placed these resources off limits for exploration. Today the ban on accessing oil and gas resources of federal lands and off our shores expired in the Congress. This ban should permanently end and not be revived by the next Congress. In fact, the next Congress should adopt a much more strategic approach to the long-term solutions which the public rightfully demands.

[Drill for more fossil fuels. This is getting repetitive isn’t it?]

So our recommendations include making better use of the domestic resources on and off our shores with environmentally-responsible technology – and allowing states to share in royalties from such production. The way in which off shore drilling survived two recent hurricanes underscores just how advanced our technology has come towards ensuring that we can protect the environment in times of natural crisis.

[Oil exploration and consumption is the source of a man-made crisis. General Jones argues that we should feel encouraged to use fossil fuels by the fact that we can (supposedly) avoid oil spills during hurricanes, while ignoring the fact that consumption of those fuels contributes to the biggest crisis of all: Climaticide.]

Let us also be clear on one other point…any dialogue about diversifying our energy supplies must include nuclear energy, our nation’s largest emission-free source of electricity. The United States relies on nuclear power for 20 percent of its electricity, yet we haven’t licensed a new nuclear power facility in nearly 30 years.

To increase nuclear’s role, we must enhance the federal government’s partnership with the private sector. Our recommendations include expanding the existing federal loan guarantee program to support more than just two or three new plants. And we also need a responsible “back end” strategy so that our used fuel can be recycled and then safely disposed.

[Remember that above General Jones advocated extending tax credits for sustainable energy for eight years then phasing it out over 4 years. (Contrast this with European policies which guarantee rates for sustainable energy for 20 years for those installing solar panels, etc.) But now that the General is talking about nuclear energy he calls for “expanding the existing federal loan guarantee program” without mentioning time limits or phasing out periods. Wonder why that is? Oh, that’s right, he heads an organization sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.]

6-16-2008

Technology is the key to finding solutions. We must focus on the development and application of clean energy technologies both at home and abroad. Not just alternative sources, but technologies that allow us to continue to tap and use, in an environmentally sound manner, the tremendous reserves of oil, coal, and gas that exist around the globe.

[More fossil fuel use plus (did you get that “around the globe part?”) and by depending on foreign sources of energy, the “necessity” of maintaining our imperial military presence in the world. Have to protect those supply lines!]

5-20-2008

Our electricity sectors are heavily dependent on coal. Half of America’s electricity is generated from coal, and three-quarters of China’s. For that reason, we need to find new and affordable ways that will allow us to continue using coal in efficient and environmentally sound ways.

A common solution to reducing carbon emissions in the production of electricity is the increased use of nuclear power. The United States and China have much to gain by cooperating in the field of nuclear power. Specifically, we can work together by sharing information on nuclear power plant construction and operations, cooperating on parts and materials, and standardizing high quality assurance programs. We also need to move toward Generation IV reactors to reduce nuclear waste, the production of weapons-grade materials, and the long-run potential for uranium shortages.

[Generation IV reactors are decades away from commercial application and will contribute nothing to stopping global warming now, but now is precisely when we need to take action.]

Cooperative research and development is a necessary approach to obtain the technological innovations required to sustain economic growth and use energy more efficiently, at the same time as reducing the potential for harmful effects on the environment. Technology and equipment for increased efficiency and joint projects on renewables are necessary components of our strategies. To advance technological cooperation, for example, we need to address trade issues and examine tariffs and other trade barriers, which will be part of the discussion on the third panel tomorrow morning.

[Trade issues and tariffs do need to be addressed as Obama mentioned during the campaign, but this sounds like a call for reducing barriers to trade. What we need is renegotiate trade agreements so that they protect workers and the environment, and also (this doesn’t get talked about enough) so that tariffs can be imposed in the future on goods from nations that refuse to cooperate on international measures against global warming in the hopes of gaining a price advantage over more responsible nations.]

3-26-2008

The Institute is not engaging in the scientific debate over the reality or consequences of climate change; we accept the phenomenon that the earth is warming and that we must craft common-sense solutions to ensure a clean environment, as well as a strong economy.

[What scientific debate over “the reality of climate change?” The Institute’s sponsor, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has historically been one of the main groups involved in confusing the public by denying the reality of global warming. Now that that position is no longer tenable, they have turned to greenwashing. They still don’t seem to be able to just come out and admit that global warming is anthropogenic in origin.]

3-14-2008

Let me talk for a moment about climate change – a key aspect of energy security. There are more divergent points of view on the issue of climate than on any other issue I have confronted in my career. The Institute for 21st Century Energy is not challenging climate change science or the consequences of this phenomenon. The earth is warming and that we must craft common-sense solutions to address it. We believe that action should be taken in three areas:

[Another denialist/delayer way of stating the question. There supposedly are many divergent points of view, but in reality there are only two points of view: those of the climate scientists who study and understand the issues and those of their greedy and near-sighted corporate opponents and their confused ideologically-motivated supporters. Notice that once again the General does not recognize that global warming is caused by human beings. But if you’re unwilling to recognize the source of global warming, how can you adopt wise policies to deal with it?]

Energy supply and demand – Worldwide energy use is increasing twice as fast as energy production, so we have a big challenge ahead of us. Simply put, energy supplies will fall short of demand, meaning higher prices. We must develop a plan to deal with this gap between demand and supply. We can address this gap through technology, efficiency, expansion of existing sources, and developing alternative forms of energy. We must take advantage of all sources of energy, including the continued use of fossil fuels, for at least the foreseeable future. There is no single solution to providing adequate supplies of energy – we must rely on all possible sources.

[Apparently, although he calls for efficiency measures General Jones doesn’t believe they will work. So we will have to continue to rely on fossil fuels for the “foreseeable future”. How long might that be? Until those sources are exhausted, perhaps?]

Energy and the environment – We cannot have a realistic energy strategy without addressing the environment. We need a purposeful and rational approach, not a hysterical one, to manage the risk of climate change. And it must be global in scope. It is part of our leadership role in the world.

[Does the general mean all of us “hysterics” who keep pointing out that continuing to use fossil fuels for the “foreseeable future” will lead to catastrophic and irreversible climate change condemning future generations to untold misery and suffering?]

Energy technology – Technology is the key to finding solutions. We must focus on the development and application of clean energy technologies at home and abroad-including nuclear power. And not just alternative sources, but technologies that allow us to continue to tap and use, in an environmentally sound manner, the tremendous reserves of oil, coal, and gas that exist domestically and around the globe. We will include a comprehensive look at the state of our technologies as they relate to all formers of energy sources.

[There it is again, that mysterious “environmentally sound manner” in which we are going to use all those environmentally unsound “reserves of oil, coal and gas that exist domestically and around the globe”.]

This is a huge issue and, frankly, we at the Institute have not figured out yet how to tackle it. Consider the magnitude of infrastructure this country depends upon – 800,000 oil and natural gas wells, over 700 oil refineries, 25,000 wind turbines, 55,000 miles of oil pipelines, and 200,000 miles of power transmission lines. We need a plan to modernize, expand, and protect this country’s infrastructure.

[It was nice of the General to throw in the sop to wind turbines, but really, is expanding our 7800,000 oil and natural gas wells, 700 oil refineries and 55,000 miles of pipeline an energy plan for the 21st century? If so, it will be a 21st century in which atmospheric CO2 will certainly double by mid-century to 560ppp (from pre-industrial levels of of 280ppm) leading to the melting away of alpine glaciers, the disappearance of summer sea-ice, increased melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice, sea-level rise, extension of areas of drought and severe storms, further extinction of species, the spread of disease, acidification of the oceans and the creation of millions of climate refuges]

Energy security does not mean “energy independence,” although this is a popular slogan used by our politicians and it makes a great bumper sticker. “Energy independence” is a fantasy. We operate in a global economy and an international energy market. Thinking in terms of energy interdependence will lead to sounder and more realistic policies.

[Translated this means that we will continue to spend enormous sums on the military to protect the supply lines that bring us all those deadly but “necessary” fossil fuels from all over the world.]

6-12-2007

Energy Technology — We must also focus on the development and application of clean energy technologies at home and abroad–including nuclear power. And not just alternative sources, but technologies that allow us to continue to tap and use, in an environmentally sound manner, the tremendous reserves of oil, coal, and gas that exist here and across the globe.

First, we must maintain a strong economy and boost American jobs and competitiveness by iincreasing the nation’s energy supply from all sources–oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and alternative fuels and technologies.

[There’s another reference to alternative fuels, right after “oil, gas, coal, nuclear…”]

Rightly or wrongly, the United States has been seen internationally as the source of many energy-related problems, not the source of solutions. America has an exciting opportunity to lead the world to innovative solutions that would spur economic growth and clean the environment. We can be the champion of new technologies that foster greater energy efficiency, the development of viable alternatives, and cleaner and more effective methods to find, extract, and use of traditional energy sources. The Institute will provide the framework for helping to achieve these objectives.

[Rightly or wrongly? Rightly or wrongly? Once again, the general seems to be unable to utter the simple truths that might lend some credibility to what he is saying.]

Well, I’m certain that you’ve had enough by now. I know that there is a theory that Barack Obama is creating some sort of Team of Rivals cabinet, but how can one not be concerned about the appointment of someone like General James L. Jones to the post of National Security Advisor?

The principal problem with the solutions that General Jones and the Institute for 21st Century Energy propose is that they are wholly inadequate to solve the problem of Climaticide.. The relatively conservative estimates of the 4th IPCC report state that if we are to stablize emissions at 450ppm (which is 100ppm higher than James Hansen says is necessary if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences), GHG emissions must peak by 2020 and decline rapidly after that. This can be achieved only if we make a full-scale and rapid transition to sustainable energy sources. Thus it makes no sense to continue oil exploration at all, let alone subsidize it, as we will not be able to use the oil without threatening ourselves with climate disaster. Those resources should be invested in renewables and, perhaps, in some nuclear.

Additionally, do we really need someone in the NSA position who sits on the Chevron Board of Directors? I thought that one of the things the last election was about was getting rid of the oil guys. Do we need someone who heads The Institute for 21st Century Energy but speaks, despite all the greenwashing references to alternative energy, as if he’s actually the head of the Institute for 19th Century Energy? I don’t think so.

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Responses

  1. This just means the eventual reckoning will be all the more disturbing and powerful.

    Figure a few more climate catastrophes before important thinking changes.

    Obama is still new and a rookie – at least we have an intelligent leader who seems to able to learn…and to spot the interrelated complexity of systems.

    Too bad we have to wait. The horrible penalty we pay is the further compression of the time left to react. Increasing rate-of-change means adaptation must be logical and decisive rather than genetic and leisurely.

    Delay and the failure to make and implement key survival decisions means we move toward extinction faster.

    This is a difficult concept for politicians to grasp. Difficult for scientists to describe.

    Pity.

  2. According to Joseph Romm, it would be out of line for the NSA to be involved in anything dealing with national energy policy. That would fall under the purview of the Secretary of State, and Clinton will be a good advocate for a comprehensive policy along the lines of what Obama has advocated.

  3. Do you have a link to where Joe said that? I’d really like to take a look at it.

  4. Here’s some good news in terms of emissions reduction:
    US emissions poised to fall ~2.5% in ’08 and further in ’09, see details at:
    http://setenergy.org/2008/11/13/a-banner-year-for-us-climate-research-sees-sharp-emissions-drop/

    And even China seems to have falling emissions this quarter:
    http://setenergy.org/2008/12/05/china-power-generation-falls-record-amount-climate-hope-alive/

    If you find the SET daily blog on energy and climate developments useful, please consider adding it to your blogroll.
    Onwards to sustainability,
    Dennis


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