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By Jim Bell



Ecology and Security: Making the Connection

Military Action And Energy Use

The U.S. Infrastructure - Vulnerability by Design?

Eco-nomic Design Vs. Natural Disasters and Terrorism










Blind spots in security planning leave us increasingly vulnerable to natural phenomenon like earthquakes, floods, and fires and to terrorism and other intentional human acts. Eco-nomically based security planning, however, can reduce our vulnerability to both intentional human acts and natural phenomena.

If human settlements are designed to be resource efficient, whatever supplies they have stored locally will last longer should imported resources be cut off.

Local security can be enhanced by using locally available resources in ways that are eco-nomically sustainable, i.e., wealth producing. Not only does this reduce a region's vulnerability to cutoffs, it also creates jobs and reduces the flow of cash away from local economies to pay for imports. For example, solar cells or solar water heaters can be installed on roof tops instead of importing oil. Sewage water can be recycled and used to grow food, wood and fiber, and energy crops.






Ecology and Security: Making the Connection








A major concern for most nations and their citizenry is national defense. But even in this time of heightened environmental concern, the connection between national defense and eco-nomic health is not often made. Some issues, like military generated toxic waste and war-related environmental damage, have received attention, but the dependency of military security on eco-nomic sustainability has been barely explored.

Around the globe, national defense consumes inordinate amounts of resources and scientific talent. All costs considered, more money is spent on national defense than for any other single item. (66) Worldwide, "$15 to $20 of every $100 spent by central governments now goes to military purposes, triple their budgets for education, eight times their budgets for housing." (67)

In the United States, "over 52 cents of each income tax dollar goes to the military", for a total of $589 billion during the 1991 fiscal year. Of this amount $287 billion was spent to maintain current military programs. The remaining $302 billion was spent on military related costs like the research and development and the construction of nuclear weapons through the Department of Energy. Also included in this $302 billion are veterans' benefits, and the interest on the war-related portion of our national debt. (68)

By 1990 Americans were "spending twice as much each year on the military as we were in 1980." (69) "Over the last decade the United States government has spent almost $3 trillion of federal tax money in the military, or $45,000 for each U.S. family." (70)

There are a lot of complicated reasons why nations feel inclined to spend so much on defense. But underlying all these reasons is the feeling shared by many that some other nation will take advantage of them if their military is unprepared.

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, feelings like this can be eased through the process of building trust. But until the trust between nations becomes more universal, defense spending will continue to be a high priority. Yet, even in the context of the present world tension, does our desire for a strong defense necessarily conflict with our need for eco-nomic security?

A brief analysis of the recent events in the Middle East and other related issues will illustrate that this is certainly not the case.

During the period preceding U.S. involvement in the Persian Gulf War, much of the debate centered around sending troops or using economic sanctions to get Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. What was not discussed, however, was that the conflict could have been avoided altogether if the U.S. had spent the 15 to 20 years before the war becoming more energy efficient, and switching to renewable energy resources.

The aggressive pursuit of efficiency and renewables in the U.S. during these decades would have driven world oil prices down to $5 per barrel or less. In fact, over-production by OPEC and minor efficiency improvements in the West drove world oil prices down to $8.50 per barrel in 1986. (71)

Even if oil prices had stayed at $8.50, much less $5, Saddam Hussein's ability to purchase weapons and support his army would have certainly been limited. Indeed, most of the weaponry now present in the Middle East would not be there at all if the U.S. had aggressively pursued an efficiency and renewable energy strategy in the past.

In response to the fear that OPEC's lack of unity on production quotas would drive oil prices down to $5-a-barrel, "intense pressure (to cut production) was put on the Saudis by Iran, anxious to boost oil revenues to pay for its treasury-busting war against Iraq. Gholamreza Agazadeh, Iran's Oil Minister, declared the prospect of $5-a-barrel oil 'simply unbelievable.'" (72) Iraq was also hurt by low oil prices "and was clearly seeking a higher oil price to meet its financial needs than the $21 per barrel agreed upon at OPEC's July (1990) meeting." (73) Iraq's charge that Kuwait, through over-production, was driving oil prices down was one reason Iraq gave for its invasion of Kuwait. (74) Even though oil prices hovered around the $10 per barrel mark for only a few months, the ability to wage war throughout the Middle East was affected.

Note: Although the OPEC Cartel can affect the price of oil by reducing production, the impact of trimming production on oil prices is limited. As is discussed in the chapters on energy, the U.S. has the potential to eliminate its need, not only for imported oil, but for non-renewable energy resources all together. If either of these things happened, Opec's ability to manipulate oil prices would be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated.

Even a much less aggressive move toward efficiency could have removed the issue of foreign oil dependence from the U.S. rationale for intervention in the Iraq war. According to Amory and Hunter Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, the U.S. "wouldn't have needed any oil from the Persian Gulf after 1985 if we'd simply kept on saving oil as quickly as we did for the previous nine years." (75) Just an improvement in U.S. domestic car efficiency from the current average of 19 MPG to 22 MPG "would replace U.S. imports of oil from Iraq and Kuwait." (76) Raising the average fuel efficiency to 31 MPG would eliminate the "need for any oil from the Persian Gulf" altogether. (77)






Military Action And Energy Use








Mobilizing the military to keep imported oil supplies flowing is a very costly and energy consuming activity. "Counting military costs, Gulf oil in late 1990 cost over $100 a barrel." (78) "In 1989 the U.S. Department of Defense spent more than $15 billion -- as much as $54 billion according to some estimates -- to safeguard oil supplies in the Persian Gulf." (79) In the same year, about 38 percent of the oil imported from Saudi Arabia by the U.S. was used by the Pentagon. (80) During wars it was estimated that the oil consumed by the Pentagon would double or triple this amount. (81) "An M-1 tank gets 0.58 miles to the gallon. An oil fired aircraft carrier gets 17 feet per gallon." (82)

In short, the aggressive pursuit of energy efficiency and renewables would drastically reduce the ability of Middle Eastern countries to maintain large armies and purchase costly high tech weapons. It also would benefit the U.S. by reducing the need for the United States to maintain a costly military presence in the Persian Gulf to safeguard access to foreign oil fields. Further, independence from oil would reduce the amount of U.S. financial aid needed by Israel to maintain a military balance in the Gulf Region.

On the home front, becoming more energy efficient and switching to renewables would increase eco-nomic security by creating millions of new jobs. "A study by Steve Colt of the University of Alaska at Anchorage found that state spending on weatherization creates more jobs per dollar of outlays (sic) than any other type of capital project-almost three times as many direct jobs as highway construction". (83)

A study prepared by Leon Rodberg for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress in 1979 confirms these findings. "Assuming an annual investment of $115 billion (in 1989 dollars), Rodberg found that more than 2 million jobs might have been created in 10 years -- a quarter of them in conservation and the rest in solar energy." (84)

On the down side, the performance of these 2 million jobs would cause the gradual loss of one million jobs in the non-renewable energy sector. "But re-spending the associated savings in energy outlays elsewhere would have brought additional employment gains for a net increase of almost 3 million jobs as a whole." (85)

Switching to energy efficiency and renewables would have a similar positive impact on the job picture in other countries as well. A 1985 study prepared for the Commission of the European Community (EC) bears this out. The study which "analyzed the employment potential of six energy conservation and renewable energy technologies in Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, and West Germany ... found that some 34 million tons of oil equivalent could be saved and an average of 142,000 job-years gained by the year 2000," if the measures studied were implemented. (86) Further, the study's authors "suggested that a full-fledged conservation and renewables program could yield a minimum of 530,000 job-years for the EC (all 12 countries) as a whole, or on average 3,800 jobs per million tons of primary (non-renewable) energy saved." (87)

Studies in Canada and Oregon comparing the job creation potential of investing in other economic sectors instead of the energy industry show similar gains in employment. For every $1 million invested in Alberta Canada's oil and gas industries, 1.4 jobs are generated. If the same amount of money is invested in manufacturing, 9 jobs are created. (88) An Oregon study "revealed that spending $1 million in the utility industry generates roughly 12 jobs, while $1 million spent throughout the state produces 35 jobs." (89)

A study in the United States which compares the job creation potential for investing in efficiency, as opposed to the energy sector, shows comparable job creation potential. In the U.S., electric utility and petroleum industries "typically produce about five jobs per million dollars of investment. Weatherization of buildings, by contrast, produces 50 jobs for the same investment." (90) Because the performance of these jobs would reduce energy consumption, energy related pollution would be cut accordingly.

Notwithstanding investments in other sectors, investing in the civilian economy provides many more jobs than spending money on military build-up. "According to a study by Employment Research Associates, if the money spent on the military build-up between 1981 and 1985 had been spent on civilian economic activities, 1,146,000 more jobs would have been generated." (91)

In addition to creating jobs, becoming more energy efficient has other eco-nomically related security benefits. It has been estimated that 80 to 90 percent of the money spent on energy by a typical community leaves it to pay for energy imports. (92) Investing in efficiency halts this dollar export because investing in efficiency and renewables pays for itself by reducing or eliminating the need to purchase imported energy. It also creates local jobs. And as the money saved through efficiency accumulates, the wealth gained can be reinvested to create even more jobs.

This would further strengthen the U.S economy by putting the money we now export to purchase imported energy in the pockets of the people whose work reduces our energy dependency -- people who get paychecks, pay local and national taxes, and spend their money in local businesses. When we export money to pay for imported energy, that money is lost to our local economies and, more often than not, our national economy as well.






The U.S. Infrastructure - Vulnerability by Design?








Another security issue brought to light during the war with Iraq was the United States' vulnerability to terrorism. During the conflict, the threat of terrorism was considered very real. As the media played it, the aim of invading terrorists would be to smuggle explosives on to airliners, and blow them up.

Thankfully this didn't happen. But as tragic as it would have been, losing lives and airplanes would be minor compared to the loss of life and the chaos that would have occurred if a terrorist group had materialized and attacked the U.S. infrastructure. A country's infrastructure consists of the power lines, pipelines, roads, aqueducts, communication systems, etc. and the activities they link together.

Like other infrastructural elements, our energy delivery and supply infrastructure is quite vulnerable. A few determined people with nothing more sophisticated than hunting rifles with scopes could shoot down key power lines and black out our whole country in a matter of seconds. If such an attack was well planned, it could take weeks or longer to repair the damage. As one Department of the Interior expert put it, "a relatively small group of dedicated, knowledgeable individuals . . . could bring down (the power grid supply in) almost any section of the country," or could black out "a widespread network" if more widely coordinated. (93) In the introduction to the book Brittle Power, Admiral Thomas Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Nixon, and R. James Woolsey, Undersecretary of the Navy under President Carter, wrote that, ". . . the vulnerabilities are so numerous -- to weather, to accidents arising from complexity, to a handful of terrorists, . . . that denying the plausibility of such threats is unlikely to prove persuasive". (94)

Natural gas pipelines are similarly vulnerable to attack. In a lecture given at Orange Coast College in California, Amory Lovins (founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute) stated that terrorists could cut most of the natural gas supply to the eastern seaboard without ever leaving Louisiana. This is not surprising since "eighty-four percent of all interstate (natural) gas either is from Louisiana wells", . . . "or flows from Texas, mostly via Louisiana". (95)

Oil pipelines are equally vulnerable. "Damage to key facilities on just a few pipeline systems could greatly reduce domestic shipments, causing an energy shortage exceeding that of the 1973 Arab Oil embargo." (96)

Terrorism within our own borders is not the only threat to energy security. Our dependence on oil imports from abroad extends our infrastructure all the way to the oil fields of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, the world's premier oil exporter, has "more than 700 producing wells, generally 1,000 to 3,000 meters apart, over an area of more than 10,000 square miles. Nearly 100 of these wells are offshore rigs -- and all are vulnerable to attack." (97) In short, "the numerous and widely dispersed oil fields in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf are extraordinarily vulnerable to Iraqi (or other) saboteurs, experts said yesterday. Moreover, if more than a dozen targets were hit at once, the world's limited oil industry fire fighting resources would be overwhelmed." (98)

Like oil and gas pipelines, water pipe networks, aqueducts, and pumping stations could be laid to waste with nothing more powerful than explosives, commonly used in mining and construction.

Freeway overpasses, tunnels, and railroad trestles are similarly vulnerable. The loss of just a few key overpasses, bridges, and tunnels would greatly limit the delivery of food to most urban areas. "A study for the U.S. Department of Defense estimated that the average molecule of processed food in this country travels 1,300 miles before it is eaten." (99) This means that the delivery of food supplies to any particular area could be interrupted by intentional or accidental acts by humans or by natural phenomena that occur in locations distant from where people live.

The loss of overpasses, bridges, and tunnels would also disrupt the delivery of energy sources like coal and gasoline. The loss of escape routes coupled with fuel shortages would also reduce the possibility for people to transport themselves to where food and energy might be available. Although only one major freeway collapsed during the 1990 earthquake in the San Francisco Bay region, its loss had a dramatic effect on all transportation-related activities around the bay area. (100) The loss of just a few overpasses during the recent Los Angeles earthquake caused even greater disruptions in auto transportation. One can only imagine the kinds of problems that could be caused if a terrorist group attacked a typical urban infrastructure at its most critical and hard-to-repair junctures.






Eco-nomic Design Vs. Natural Disasters and Terrorism












Obviously, this picture of infrastructure vulnerability has alarming implications. But how can becoming more eco-nomically secure make us less vulnerable to terrorism or natural calamities?

An important way to increase both military and ecological security is to become more energy efficient and to switch to renewable energy resources. Militarily, becoming more efficient and switching to renewables would extend the useful life of locally stored energy supplies in the event that imported resources were cut off. (101) This is on top of the other security benefits discussed earlier, such as reducing the amount of cash available in the Middle East to purchase arms and reducing the amount of aid needed by Israel to maintain a military balance with her neighbors.

Ecologically, this strategy would greatly reduce the creation of non-renewable energy related pollution, and reduce the United States' contribution to global warming. Becoming more energy efficient and switching to renewables improves our energy security in another way.

Renewable energy resources are, by nature, diffuse. The places where solar or wind energy can be collected are spread out. In other words, the nature of renewable energy sources is that they lend themselves to the development of a more decentralized energy production and delivery system than we currently have.

Present centralized power production systems use coal, oil, natural gas, or processed nuclear fuel rods in centralized power plants. From a military perspective such systems are inherently fragile. If one large plant is knocked off-line a large number of people are affected. Plus, as previously discussed, the infrastructure (wires, pipes, and roads) needed to get the energy source from the place of extraction to these centralized plants, and from them to the end users, is vulnerable to disruption on many levels. A decentralized solar based system largely avoids such problems.

In the sun belt, for example, solar cells on roof tops could supply all the energy needed by homes and for many businesses directly or from storage when the sun isn't shining. If such a system was in place, the only way for terrorists to cut off power would be to go house to house and business to business. In less sunny areas wind power and biomass crops (fast growing trees and other plants) can be used to decentralize power supplies. (102)

If energy is used efficiently, developing renewable energy powered decentralizing energy supply systems becomes easier. A typical home, incorporating state-of-the-art energy efficient features, could be energy independent in the sunniest half of the U.S. with a 100 to 200 square foot, roof-top mounted photovoltaic panel. (103)

Eco-nomic planning strategies can also reduce the vulnerability of our water delivery infrastructures. Using water more efficiently, recycling water after use, and better water storage systems make us less vulnerable to intentional water supply disruptions. These measures also reduce the threat to water supplies from natural phenomenon like earthquakes.

If water supplies from distant sources are cut off, efficient water use helps to extend the life of whatever locally stored supplies are available. Water recycling further extends local supplies by allowing the water to be used more than once. In dry urban areas with low rainfall, underground water storage cisterns can be used to meet local water needs if imported water supplies are disrupted and until repairs to conveyance systems can be made. Underground tank storage would also eliminate losses to evaporation. In semi-arid regions, losses to evaporation in open reservoirs can exceed 10 feet of water per year from reservoir surfaces. (104)

Even in urban areas with sufficient local water resources, a dispersed covered tank storage system would be easier to protect from contamination than open reservoirs. Open reservoirs can be contaminated directly or indirectly via the watersheds that drain into them. Since it would take a large number of tanks to hold the same amount of water contained by one large reservoir, many tanks would have to be contaminated to cause a serious impact on the whole system. It would take a squad of terrorists to contaminate or damage a dispersed network of covered storage tanks, whereas only one terrorist might be able to contaminate or damage a single large reservoir.

In addition to making our water system less vulnerable to sabotage or earthquakes, the strategies described above also save money and protect the environment. By minimizing the need to dam more rivers and build new aqueducts, the costs and ecological trauma associated with such activities can be avoided.

Military and eco-nomic security can be improved in urban areas by producing a higher percentage of the food consumed in them locally. Ecologically, this would save energy and reduce energy-related pollution by shortening the travel distance between where food is grown and processed and where it is consumed. Growing food locally would also provide a productive use for recycled sewage water and composted sludge which urban dwellers generate.

Local food production, especially if coupled with local food storage banks, would also enhance military security. If imported food supplies are disrupted by damaged overpasses and railway trestles, food banks could provide civilian populations with a secure food supply until road and railway repairs were made. As a security precaution, each urban area should have at least a one-year supply of nonperishable food in storage at all times. Food storage, coupled with local food production would make urban areas much less vulnerable to the intentional cut off of food shipped in from distant locations or the disruption of normal distribution networks by earthquakes, hurricanes, or other natural phenomenon.

More details on the recommendations just discussed will come in later chapters but the main point is that all the measures just discussed would make us more secure ecologically as well as from a national security perspective. They also would make us less vulnerable to natural phenomena like earthquakes, hurricanes and the like.

Considering the clear linkages between military and ecological security, it would seem prudent to spend at least as much money on making our national and regional infrastructures less vulnerable as we spend on "smart weapons". This is especially true considering that high-tech (smart) weaponry can do little, if anything, to protect us from the kind of threats our present infrastructure is vulnerable to.