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Former Military Brass Backs Transition to Renewable Energy

A national-security research group says a move to renewable forms of energy is a matter of U.S. national security. (Defense Images/Flickr)
A national-security research group says a move to renewable forms of energy is a matter of U.S. national security. (Defense Images/Flickr)
June 7, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa - Fifteen retired admirals and generals have signed a report saying the United States should protect its national security by taking the lead in advanced and renewable energy.

Retired Vice Adm. Lee Gunn, vice chairman of the Military Advisory Board of nonprofit research organization CNA, said the timing's just a coincidence - days after President Trump said he wants the nation to leave the Paris climate accord. However, Gunn said it's vital for U.S. economic, diplomatic and military standing to take a leading role in the transition to wind and solar power or risk letting other countries erode our superpower status.

"China is in the first position, the European Union as a bloc is in second position, and the U.S. has surrendered leadership," Gunn said. "I don't think that means for a moment that we have to stay there."

When Trump announced his decision, one of his central arguments was that the Paris agreement weakens U.S. employment and economic strength. However, 1,100 companies, including such energy giants as ExxonMobil, have publicly stated they favor staying in the accord.

As advanced energy expands in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and other areas, the report said, the nation exporting the technology enjoys much greater influence as well as more job growth at home. By comparison, Leo Goff, a retired Navy captain and lead author of the report, said fossil-fuel exporters have leverage to bind consuming countries that haven't made the switch.

"International tethers that may not be in our best interest," he said. "Russia is positioning itself to fill a lot of those needs, as is Iran and others that don't necessarily hold our values."

Gunn said the United States can do a lot for itself by embracing the newer energy technologies.

"It's important that we lead rather than follow," he said. "When you're riding in a car, you haven't got much control - but when you're driving, you can determine the direction and the speed."

The report, available online at, was released Tuesday by CNA's Military Advisory Board, a national-security research group often seen as close to high-ranking service leadership. Active-duty officers tend to shy away from taking political positions, but sometimes will let retired officers speak for them.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA