Renewable and alternative energy advocates looking to score politically by moving their issue into the realm of national security debates notched a victory Monday when President-elect Barack Obama picked retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones to become his national security adviser.
“He understands the connection between energy and national security, and has worked on the front lines of global instability - from Kosovo to northern Iraq to Afghanistan,” Mr. Obama said Monday about Mr. Jones, who has led the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s energy efforts for the last year.
Mr. Jones, who won bipartisan praise in Washington for commanding NATO forces and running the U.S. Marine Corps, recently turned his focus on the nexus between the nation’s dependence of importing increasing amounts of oil and its long-term security interests.
“We have become too dependent on foreign sources,” Mr. Jones said at a U.S. Chamber event last month. “The enormous transfer of wealth as a result of our dependency is a front row, first rate national security issue.”
Mr. Jones’ supporters credit him with being one of the nation’s first high-ranking officials to clearly draw the connection between energy reforms and national security.
“General Jones was one of the first flag officers to internalize the link between energy and security,” said Anne Korin, chairwoman of Set America Free Coalition, which supports breaking the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. “Even as NATO commander, he tried to carve a role for the alliance on energy security when most members were still averse to the idea. With his appointment as NSA, the energy security community will have a strong advocate in the White House.”
Ms. Korin’s coalition comprises business groups, labor and national security experts, with the goal, according to its Web site, to “cut dependence on foreign oil. Secure America.”
More moderate and conservative advocates of establishing better energy security often have included domestic oil drilling and clean coal technology as part of any successful energy plan, while environmentalists and conservationists have fought plans to expand the production of domestic fossil fuels.
But the disparate factions have met at the middle on the need for renewable energy development.
“It really has become a mainstream, inside the beltway issue,” said Michael Eckhart, president of the American Council on Renewable Energy, which began pushing the connection between energy and national security in 2001.
Mr. Eckart, who will preside over a renewable energy conference later this week, said that the nation’s military leaders have long held an intimate awareness of the need for new energy sources because the largest cost of transporting an army is fuel.
He lauded Mr. Jones’ selection.
“The decision signals that national security includes elements of energy, the economy and military, all together,” Mr. Eckhart said.
Inside the Obama transition team, considering energy reform as a national security issue has been central. John Podesta, co-chairman of Mr. Obama’s transition team, has pushed for the creation of an energy security council that would report directly to Mr. Obama.
Members of the transition team have debated over whether to create an energy czar, or a council, but the thrust of the idea - to examine how energy dependence threatens national security - is solidified. And the top pick to run the group, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner, is solidified, too, Democratic sources say.