Monday, September 28, 2009

In Which I Take Issue with those Taking Issue with CNA's "Powering America's Defense" Energy Report

Nothing furthers understanding better than a healthy critique of a seemingly sound argument. The counter argument will either surface errors, factual or logical, which is for the good, or it's going to miss the mark and if anything further reify the positions made in the original piece. In the latest issue of National Defense magazine, I contend the authors of "National Security and Energy: Setting the Right Priorities" accomplish the latter.

I won't subject you to a point by point analysis ... this isn't a new piece of critical legislation. But briefly, the authors seek to undermine some of the foundational assumptions of the CNA report, that:
  • the US uses too much oil (by faulting the rhetoric)
  • that the US is too dependent on foreign oil, particularly from the Middle East (by saying we have a big economy and that our allies depend on it too)
  • that the report's characterization of climate change risk is not nuanced enough and should allow for regional variations and temperature change, not just rise
They then abruptly pivot to say the answer to all of the above is hybrid electric cars for the nation, and hybrid electric vehicles for the military and that our grid can't handle waves of electric cars or renewables. To me, that's way too big a leap, and is neither suggested by the title of the article, nor supported by the facts / evidence they bring to bear. The authors also point to "clean coal" as part of our energy mix; a term which for me signals the triumph of marketing over substance.

Don't get me wrong, I've cited and linked to dozens of energy related articles in National Defense, including some solid ones by Frodl and Manoyan, but IMHO, this one does little but solidify my initial reading that the CNA did a great job of summing up some super-complex challenges facing DOD and suggesting some potential ways forward.

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