America must act to reduce oil dependency strategic concerns and national security costs. As economic and social disruptions resulting from a changing global climate accelerate, international instability also increases. By embracing lower and non-carbon sources of electric energy for mobility of goods and people, the U.S. will reduce both climate and national security risk.
In the past two decades, the U.S. has waged war within the boundaries of two of the top world exporters of oil. Canadians deployed troops in one of these military actions. There is strong disagreement about whether these wars were “resource” (oil) wars. Regardless of the arguments, it is clear that among the most tangible results of the wars in Kuwait and Iraq was restoration and security of petroleum exports and reserves for Western consumption.
The U.S. and Canada spent billions of dollars on these wars. U.S. expenditures during the Gulf War are estimated at $61 billion. Coalition nations reimbursed the U.S. about $54 billion.[Horan, Fred, How much did the Gulf War cost the US? “Information taken from "Conduct of the Persian Gulf War", The Final Report to the US Congress by the US Department of Defense; April 1992; Appendix P.”] The cost to the U.S. of the War in Iraq is closing in on three-quarters of a trillion dollars. Together with the cost of war in Afghanistan, adjacent to the unstable Middle East-South Asian petroleum pool, the U.S. has spent over $1.1 trillion.[Cost of War, National Priorities Project]
Money, however, doesn’t begin to count the cost of war. Three hundred and eighty-two American soldiers lost their lives in Operation Desert Storm/Shield. Another 839 were injured. In the Iraq War alone, almost 3500 U.S. soldiers have given their lives thus far. Nearly 32,000 have been injured. [United State Casualties of War, Wikipedia] It will take two generations for the full burden of these wars to be felt by society in terms of medical, psychological, veterans, and social service costs. The human burden is borne daily by families who lost loved ones. We should not neglect that there is also an unfathomable cost in lives and property among civilian victims in the theaters of these wars.
In the interest of national security, we must wean ourselves from oil-dependent transportation. We must support our allies as they undergo a similar transition. On the domestic front, we must plan and build an efficient transportation system to move goods and people in coming decades as the consequences of climate changing carbon pollution exact an increasing economic, human, and biological toll. We need to start now to build an oil-free transportation system.
Substituting domestically produced, efficient electric motive power is the key. There are no technical barriers to railroad electrification. The technology is available today and widely used around the world. The Steel Interstate System would readily move people and products, and make the U.S., and our Canadian, and Mexican neighbors, stronger and more secure by meeting the food and resource needs of our peoples without dependence on foreign oil. This is an investment in our economic future.
Railroads can play a significant role in transmitting and providing an efficient market for renewable wind and solar energy.