About a week after President Donald Trump said he will pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, a move some critics fear could hurt domestic investment in advanced energy technology, a group of retired military leaders issued a report saying the country has failed to develop a national strategy to "seize opportunities in the new energy landscape."
While Russia and OPEC member countries are positioning themselves to meet growing fossil fuel demand in emerging economies, a long-term shift toward nonfossil distributed energy resources is underway, and China and European Union member states are "already in the vanguard of manufacturing, deployment, and market penetration," according to a June 6 report from the CNA Military Advisory Board, a group of high-ranking retired military officials.
"The U.S. has not taken a similar strategic approach," the report said. "Ceding U.S. leadership here has inherent national security risk, including loss of global influence and diplomatic leverage, as well as foregone economic opportunities."
"The U.S. has a choice: Will we be bystanders in the transformation, or do we participate and steer the process to our economic and security advantage?" the report asked.
In announcing his intention to withdraw the from the Paris accord, Trump on June 1 said U.S. commitments under the agreement put the country at an economic disadvantage to other nations.
"I think what the decision was about was simply sending a message that we're leading with action, not with words, we're going to make sure that we put America first with respect to these decisions and continue to export our innovation and technology to the rest of the world with respect to how to reduce the [carbon dioxide] footprint," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said June 6 on MSNBC's Morning Joe.
Pruitt, who has said the country needs stockpiles of hydrocarbons for electric reliability and security reasons, added that reducing coal's share of the country's energy mix below about 30% "creates vulnerabilities to attacks on infrastructure." The U.S. got 30% of its electricity from coal last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Military leaders worried that supply lines could be cut off in an emergency have been prioritizing renewables and battery storage instead. "The adversary can't cut off my sun, can't cut off my geothermal if it's right on the base," Miranda Ballentine, then President Barack Obama's assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and energy, said in January.
The Trump administration has also been criticized for proposing deep cuts to government spending on the very kinds of energy that the administration has been promoting. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has questioned the need the for government-funded research generally.
In contrast, the CNA Military Advisory Board called on the federal government to "stimulate investment" in basic and applied sciences and to "double-down" on investment and research into energy storage.
Urging the government to lead in the deployment of advanced energy technology, the board said accelerating electric-vehicle adoption could reduce the country's dependence on oil, allowing the U.S. to "loosen energy tethers and gain diplomatic leverage."
Such an approach would also allow the U.S. to cut military spending in the Persian Gulf, Rosemary Kelanic, an assistant professor of political science at Williams College, and Charles Glaser, director of the Institute for Security and Conflict Studies at The George Washington University, wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine earlier this year.
Spending approximately $10 billion a year on such initiatives, "although certainly a great deal of money, would represent just a fraction of the approximately $75 billion that Washington spends annually to defend the Gulf," Kelanic and Glaser wrote.