PORTLAND – On Monday, Maine celebrated Patriots Day. As a veteran, I want to call attention to the fact that our reliance on dirty fossil fuels is putting our nation at risk.

I served for six years in the Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion as a logistics specialist.

From 2004 to 2005, I served in Mosul, Iraq, with a lot of other great soldiers in that unit, and it has always haunted me how much money we spent on fossil fuels, and the risk many men and women in my battalion exposed themselves to by going on convoys to fetch more.

I have witnessed firsthand the resources and manpower we waste in order to purchase and protect oil in the Middle East, only to put money directly into the pockets of terrorist organizations. It is dangerous to depend on unfriendly nations for the resources we need to defend America.

Some of the top importers of crude oil into the United States today include unfriendly and unstable countries like Russia and Venezuela.

According to the Energy Information Administration, in December 2009 we bought 886,000 barrels of oil every single day from Saudi Arabia.

It is well-known in national security circles that Saudi businessmen who have made their fortunes in the oil industry are one of the largest sources of monetary contributions to terrorist organizations like al-Qaida.

This arrangement is not only unacceptable, it also presents a real danger to the men and women serving in our military. Former CIA Director James Woolsey summed this situation up well when he said that “the war on terror is the only war the United States has fought, with the obvious exception of the Civil War, in which we pay for both sides.”

Simply stated, when we pay at the pump, we are paying insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan to load bullets into the clips of their AK-47s, so they can fire them at our brave men and women in uniform. When will we stop this madness?

Additionally, climate change as a result of our enormous consumption of carbon-based energy is a threat multiplier. The Pentagon and the CIA agree. Increasingly intense natural disasters are destabilizing the regions they hit, and terrorist organizations find these vulnerable areas perfect breeding grounds for new recruitment.

We need to prevent climate change in order to prevent future enemies and future conflicts. In order to protect our men and women fighting overseas and to help them defend our nation, we must stop purchasing oil from our enemies, and we must focus on the importance of clean American energy.

The U.S. military is committed and leading the way. In Eastport, the Coast Guard is contracting directly with the Portland-based Ocean Renewable Power Co. to develop a pilot project that will generate electricity from tidal energy to support the station. The Marine Corps has committed to reducing its carbon pollution by 30 percent by 2025.

2016, the Navy plans to launch a green fleet in which hybrid-powered destroyers will be featured, and the Air Force has successfully flown an F-18 Hornet on alternative fuels. Our nation needs to follow the military’s example and utilize domestic clean energy alternatives.

Maine’s senators have shown great leadership on these issues.

As a citizen of this great state, and as a veteran of our military, I trust that Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins will be instrumental in helping to pass legislation this spring that will get us off oil supplied by countries that don’t share our values and on the road to an energy-independent future.

It will make us economically stronger, and more secure, and that’s where America needs to be. Supporting clean energy and climate change legislation is patriotic.

 

– Special to the Press Herald