Operation Free backs higher CAFE standards
Keith Griffin's picture

Vets Who Served Overseas Seek Higher Fuel Standards

Some of the people who have made the greatest sacrifices for our country are pushing for higher CAFE standards so our fighting forces are no longer compelled to fight for our dependence on fossil fuel.

That's the message that came out of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) hearings in Philadelphia today and earlier this week in Detroit. An additional hearing is set for next week in San Francisco. Members of Operation Free, a nationwide coalition of veterans, spoke in support of strong fuel economy standards for US cars and trucks.

John Gensler, former Captain, US Army, testified, “My experiences in war have made me understand and care deeply about our national security, as countless friends are still fighting overseas, and not all of them have made it home safely. The longer the U.S. remains dependent on fossil fuel, the more the U.S. will have to engage in tough wars just to protect our energy supplies, putting American lives at risk."

He added, “This isn’t just an academic or economic threat to veterans like me; it is a deeply and profoundly personal threat. In December of 2007, I helped lay to rest West Point classmate Captain Ben Tiffner, who was killed in Iraq by an advanced roadside bomb. That bomb was designed, built, and financed by the Iranian government propped up by global oil revenues. “Not two months later, nearly four years ago to the day, I was burying another friend and football teammate, Captain Torre Mallard, at West Point. He was killed in a similar incident, by a similar weapon, again funded by black-stained petrodollars. How many more of our bravest young Americans will we lose while we continue to debate and prolong action?"

Gensler served as an officer in the United States Army as a tank and infantry mortar platoon leader, and previously worked for the Dept of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). He now works as a Project Developer for Borrego Solar Systems, helping develop solar energy projects for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. Gensler is a graduate of United States Military Academy at West Point, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and Harvard’s JFK School of Government.

Brendan Flynn, US Coast Guard Academy graduate and Operation Free organizer, testified, “It is very clear to me that America’s oil dependence makes us vulnerable. A number of my good friends from the Coast Guard have served in-theater guarding oil platforms just off the coast of Iraq from waterborne suicide boat attacks. U.S. forces recently turned over oil platform security duties to the Iraqis, but oil infrastructure continues to be a target for attack both overseas and here at home.

“This is why I believe that we must adopt the 54.5 mpg standard. Nearly half of the oil we use goes towards fueling our cars and trucks, meaning building cars that use less gas will help break our addiction to oil. This standard is good for our economy, as it will spur new investments in energy-efficient engines. It is good for our national security – as the less reliant we are on one source of energy, the less vulnerable we are to a major disruption of supply. Frankly, the only people that this standard is bad for are the insurgents and terrorists fighting against our troops and plotting to attack our nation.”

The members of Operation Free are facing strong opposition from organized groups like the National Automobile Dealers Association, which wants nothing to do with the new standards. The NADA's government relations chairman, Don Chalmers, a New Mexico-based Ford Motor Co. dealer, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, "I want to sell very efficient cars. But if the customer can't get the financing for that car, than it makes no difference. Finance sources do not look at how much you are going to save in fuel economy." He added that the NADA plans to release a study next month that will estimate that technology costs would add up to $5,000 to the price of a vehicle.

Luke Tonachel a senior analyst in the Energy and Transportation program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, backed the Operation Free arguments in testimony in Detroit. In his testimony Tonachel portrayed the stakes as being very high. The higher CAFE standards would save the American economy "a half trillion dollars over the next 20 years," according to an article posted by TorqueNews correspondent David Herron.

Operation Free is a nationwide coalition of veterans who recognize climate change and oil dependence pose serious threats to US national security. Learn more at www.OperationFree.net. Operation Free is an advocacy campaign of the Truman National Security Project.

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Being married to and knowing many veterans, I can tell you this: Operation Free is a tiny contingent of generally left-leaning vets. Regardless, getting out of foreign entanglements is a good thing for this country. The way we're going, we will be at war with China and Russia before long.