An Exceptional Future
While it is common during campaign season to hear about America being “exceptional,” we hear far less about sustaining that exceptional status. Remember, our exceptionalism is earned, not given. Part of earning it means reducing our dependence on oil, which our military’s embrace of biofuels and the introduction of new corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards go a long way toward doing.
Last month, the Great Green Fleet – featuring ships and aircraft running on a 50-50 mix of petroleum and biofuels – had a successful test run during the Rim of the Pacific international exercises in Hawaii. It was a strong sign that our military is moving full steam ahead in investing in homegrown biofuels instead of staying tied like oxen to the yoke of dependence on a volatile oil market. By embracing ideas that make us stronger, the military is not only lowering its own costs but is also protecting our troops. According to a U.S. Army study last year, one-eighth of the Army’s casualties in Iraq were the result of protecting fuel convoys. Moreover, itprovides new opportunities to build relationships with our allies; during the Rim of the Pacific exercises, the US and Australian navies agreed to work together on biofuels research and deployment.
Meanwhile, the White House finalized new CAFE standards that will double fuel efficiency in automobiles by 2025 to an average 54.5 miles per gallon. The new standards mean that consumers will use less gas, and as such, save more money. For example, according to a recent report, Floridians, Ohioans, Virginians and consumers in several other states could see overall savings in the billions once the standards go into full effect.
Most importantly, this is not a patchwork of energy solutions. Dating back to the Second World War, military innovations have continually led to fuel efficiency improvements in American-made cars. The work our military is doing could directly impact our automakers in meeting the new CAFE standards. Despite some balking in Washington over potentially higher costs in the short-term, the initiative has long-term benefits for both the military and civilian sides.
When we talk about American exceptionalism, we tend to harken back to the “good old days”. But it is a concept that is just as much about our past as it is about our future. Our grandfathers probably never could have imagined an F-18 fighter jet being powered by fuel made from animal fat and algae, but neither could their grandfathers have ever envisioned Jeeps with four-wheel drive systems. America did not become exceptional by fearing change. Our military’s clean energy program and the new CAFE standards prove that we don’t.
Jessie Daniels is a Truman Security Fellow.