Cliff May

For example, the report recommends that "research and development efforts should be accelerated to find new power solutions, such as the adoption of advanced energy management technologies to reduce demand." And: "The DoD should also examine its procedures for ensuring that forward operating bases are as energy efficient as possible."

More useful is the recommendation for the Defense Department to "transform its non-tactical fleet into electric and hybrid vehicles." Better than electric and hybrid vehicles are plug-in hybrid vehicles that can run on electricity as well as a variety of liquid fuels. But since such a transformation could require a generation to complete, why not move much more quickly to Flexible Fuel Vehicles -- regular internal combustion engines modified only slightly (and cheaply) so they can run on gasoline, alcohol fuels or any combination? The alcohol fuels can be made from a variety of sources including plants, weeds, urban trash and coal. Let entrepreneurs compete to supply them to the military at the best prices. Then make sure there are plenty of "blender" pumps available for drivers.

It would be best to develop both domestic and foreign sources for the alcohol fuels -- that would make it virtually impossible for enemies to significantly disrupt supplies, as they could now, for example, by successfully attacking even a single major Saudi oil depot.

And why not exempt imported fuels for use by the military from tariffs? Brazilian sugarcane ethanol currently carries a tariff of 54 cents a gallon. Foreign oil, by contrast, carries no tariff.

It bothers me, also, that the report makes no mention of the possibility of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack on the U.S. electric grid -- the detonation of a nuclear weapon at high altitude to "cripple military and civilian communications, power, transportation, water, food, and other infrastructure," to quote a congressional commission.

Iran has been developing the capability to launch an EMP attack, according to the commission, and the CIA has translated Iranian military journals in which EMP attacks against the U.S. are explicitly discussed.

The most effective way to stop an EMP attack would be to deploy a comprehensive missile defense system. Currently, however, the administration and Congress are considering not missile defense development but missile defense cuts. My guess is the Military Advisory Board was reluctant to weigh into this controversy.

Nevertheless, its report is both timely and correct in its conclusion: America's mission is to transform oil from a strategic commodity to just another fuel, one that will have to compete in an increasingly diverse fuel marketplace. Achieving that will do more than delink energy crises from national security crises. It will strengthen national security. And it could end energy crises for as far as the eye can see.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.