Getting to 2050 – Energy Security and Transition
Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn, USN (Ret.)
Vice Chairman, CNA’s Military Advisory Board (MAB)
and Edward T. (Tom) Morehouse
Senior Fellow, Center for Naval Analysis and Senior Advisor to MAB
Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2021 at 09:00 am Pacific Time (US and Canada) via Zoom
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“Since 2010, the Department of Defense has acknowledged that the planet’s changing climate has a dramatic effect on our missions, plans, and installations. Every year, we see the consequences of increasing incidents of flooding, drought, wildfires, and extreme weather events on our installations at home. Every year, our commanders and their Allies and partners conduct operations that result from instability in societies strained by desertification, the threat of adversary access to homelands through the Arctic, and the demands for humanitarian assistance worldwide…We know first-hand the risk climate change poses to national security because it affects the work we do every day.” (27Jan2021, Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad”)
Now that we are getting vaccinated and slowly emerging from our COVID19 pandemic cocoons, it is time to expand our thinking about national security challenges and to think seriously about energy security and the climate crisis. This is especially important as the federal government prepares for a new round of economic recovery stimulus spending. The new Biden-Harris Administration has put forward an aggressive strategy to address the climate crisis including the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources. Two major milestones of this strategy are achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To meet these critical climate-energy goals will require robust, coordinated actions by the U.S. Government (especially the Department of Defense), the private sector, state and local jurisdictions, and all of us. Achieving a net-zero, energy-secure position by 2050 must be also done in concert with a national security strategy that accounts for military investments in alternative energy resources, force postures that are sustainable and nimble enough to meet evolving threats, and new economic investments to transition away from the instability of fossil fuels through renewable energy, storage, and diversified transmission.
Three big pillars of the energy security transition in the US are: 1) reducing emissions of methane gas; 2) reducing power plant dependence on fossil fuels (e.g., natural gas and coal); 3) drastically reducing emissions from vehicles through conversion to electric cars/trucks.
To help us understand what the path looks like going from a fossil-fuel dependent 2020 to a net-zero 2050 are two national security experts, Vice Adm Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.) and Mr. Tom Morehouse, both of the CNA Military Advisory Board. CNA has been studying the challenges and opportunities for the US in pursuing an energy-secure future for many years. Their work is summarized in two excellent reports
- “Advanced Energy and U.S. National Security” – released in June 2017 and available at: https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/IRM-2017-U-015512.pdf
- “National Security and Assured U.S. Electrical Power” – released Nov 2015 and available at: https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/National-Security-Assured-Electrical-Power.pdf
Admiral Gunn and Tom Morehouse will take us beyond these reports and dig into the weeds on what an energy security strategy needs to consider if we are going to successfully get to net zero emissions by 2050. In particular they will address the following questions:
- What does getting to a “carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035″ mean? Is it achievable?
- What does a “net-zero economy by 2050” look like and is it achievable?
- What alternative energy sources are in the mix to meet these goals including wind, solar and geothermal and on what timescale?
- As the federal government makes new investments in energy, what does our day-to-day lives look like as we transition away from fossil fuels?
- How will our national security be strengthened/challenged in meeting these goals?
- How is DoD leading the way on both goals? What are the challenges/opportunities for warfighting and our national security in a net-zero carbon emissions world?
- What are the economic/jobs challenges and potential opportunities associated with meeting these goals for the US, in general, and for Nevada and Arizona in particular? Who pays for the transition? How will the citizens of Nevada and Arizona benefit?
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Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn, USN (Ret.), Vice Chairman, CNA’s Military Advisory Board
Former Inspector General of the Department of the Navy. Vice Admiral Lee Gunn served for 35 years in the U.S. Navy. His last active duty assignment was Inspector General of the Department of the Navy where he was responsible for the Department’s overall inspection program and its assessments of readiness, training, and quality of service. Serving in the Surface Navy in a variety of theaters, Gunn rose through the cruiser/destroyer force to command the Frigate USS Barbey, then commanded the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare tactical and technical evaluation Destroyer squadron, DESRON 31. He later commanded Amphibious Group Three. As Commander of PHIBGRU THREE, he served as the Combined Naval Forces Commander and Deputy Task Force Commander of Combined Task Force United Shield, which conducted the withdrawal of U.N. peacekeeping forces from Somalia. Adm Gunn holds a Bachelor’s degree in Experimental and Physiological Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Master of Science in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Gunn’s awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Award, six awards of the Legion of Merit, two awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, in addition to various unit and service awards.
Edward T. (Tom) Morehouse Jr. is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Naval Analyses and Senior Advisor to the CAN Military Advisory Board. He serves as a consultant to corporate clients in the areas of energy and the environment as they relate to national security, military operations, and infrastructure development. From 2015 to 2021, he was a Senior Advisor to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). From 2010 to 2014 he was the inaugural Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and for Operational Energy Plans and Programs. During his tenure he implemented policies, practices and analytic tools and products that improved military capabilities for the Services and combatant commands, lowered operational and strategic risk, and reduced costs through better energy accounting, planning, management, and innovation. From 1995 until his appointment in 2010, he was an independent consultant to government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private companies. During this time, he worked with CNA and its Military Advisory Board, co-authoring several studies linking energy and climate change to the impacts on national security, geopolitical stability, and military operations. He was lead author of the 2008 Defense Science Board Report, “More Fight – Less Fuel,” which concluded that DoD’s large dependence on liquid fuel dilutes military capability, increases operational and logistics risks and drives up operational costs. Mr. Morehouse received his BS in Electrical Engineering from Union College and his MS in Mechanical Engineering from Boston University. He is a retired US Air Force officer.