Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Saving Fuel in Road Transport Saves Troops' Lives Downrange

On 15 November, 2010 at Chicago, IL I testified at a public hearing before an EPA/NHTSA panel regarding the first ever proposal to institute fuel efficiency and emissions standards for medium and heavy duty vehicles/engines. These are my official remarks to the panel.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you today on the first-ever proposal to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas pollution from our nation’s commercial trucks.

My name is Chris Miller and I am a self-proclaimed ‘climate hawk’. I served almost nine years in the U.S. Army as a military WMD specialist, including two combat tours in Baghdad, Iraq in 2003 and 2005. In 2004 I was wounded in a suicide truck bombing for which I received a Purple Heart. I am a Combat Action Badge Recipient and 5-time Army Commendation Medal winner. I was a convoy security leader and a military advisor to a new Iraqi Army battalion. I am an energy security advocate for Operation Free and a Fellow with the Truman National Security Project.

I come here today not as a truck driver or technology expert or climate change specialist, but as a veteran who has seen first hand the dangerous relationship between our nation’s addiction to oil and our national security.

In 2006, my second tour in Baghdad and part of ‘the surge’, I witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of a new weapon being employed by the insurgency there: EFPs. EFPs are Explosive Formed Projectiles that can penetrate up to three inches of solid steel, including the armor on our humvees and tanks. My brigade and our Iraqi allies lost several soldiers to these devices. They are so powerful they are even capable of seriously damaging a ‘Buffalo’, a special anti-IED military vehicle specifically designed to withstand very large explosions.

EFPs are not a device that an amateur can devise and implement. You can’t find them on the internet or in books at the library. They are very complex weapons. EFPs require a degree of training and expertise that only a military explosives expert has. These are not just rigged up artillery shells or mortars. They have an effect similar to an enormous cannon blast at point-blank range. I witnessed a device where a lawn mower blade was used as a penetrator and it travelled almost through the entire humvee, with deadly results for the men inside.

We know today that the Iranian government is responsible for the creation and use of these devices against our troops in Iraq with devastating consequences. Iraqi insurgents have received money, equipment, and training from the Iranian military and intelligence services and they continue to today.

Every military or insurgent force requires beans and bullets to sustain itself. I’m sorry to say that the United States is currently a great source of income for the Iranian government and the insurgency. The money we spend on oil is being used to hurt and kill our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in large number and to fund terrorism and Islamic extremism.

Every time the price of oil goes up by one dollar, Iran gets another 1.5 billion dollars to use against us. The connection between our oil addiction and the enemy couldn’t be clearer. We need to break that connection by breaking our addiction.

The scope of our addiction is extensive. The US consumes nearly 19 million barrels of oil a day, which is nearly a quarter of the oil consumed in the entire world, and more than all EU nations combined. Over half of the oil we use each day is imported from foreign countries, many of which do not like us. And more than 70 percent of the oil we consume is used for transportation.

The rate at which we consume oil helps our enemies at the same time it is threatening us. Just ask former CIA director Jim Woosley. ““Except for our own Civil War, this is the only war that we have fought where we are paying for both sides. We pay Saudi Arabia $160 billion for its oil, and $3 or $4 billion of that goes to the Wahhabis, who teach children to hate. We are paying for these terrorists with our SUVs.”

And we are not just addicted to oil at home. I can attest first hand that our military is also addicted to oil. It takes billions of gallons to run the military on the ground abroad. And that oil comes from foreign nations that don’t like us. If one of these unfriendly leaders ends oil exports to us, our military will be unable to function effectively.

So how do we break our addiction to oil? We start at home. We ask Americans to create technologies that can take our trucks farther on one gallon of gasoline. We look to industry leaders like Fed Ex who have already put hundreds of efficient hybrid trucks on the roads. And we ask our Government to implement programs that require deployment of these cleaner and more efficient vehicles on a nationwide scale.

Will the policy being considered here today, alone, break our addiction to oil? No. But reducing our oil consumption by 500 million barrels as this program is estimated to do, is a vitally important step. By 2030, this rule alone would reduce daily oil use by enough to offset all of the oil we imported this year from Iraq. And together with similar policies underway to address fuel consumption and greenhouse gases from passenger vehicles, our nation could save enough oil to offset more than all of the oil we import from the entire Middle East by 2025.

As retired General and 28th Commandant of the Marine Corps P.X. Kelley and Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President, and CEO of FedEx Corporation said together in a letter to President Obama, “Simply put, energy security cannot be improved without addressing oil dependence, and oil dependence cannot be meaningfully reduced without addressing transportation.”

You may hear testimony today about the challenges involved in meeting the proposed standards. You may hear its going to be a hard road or a slippery slope. What you should keep in mind is that there are tougher battles out there. This may be a tough battle, but it’s not as tough as what our troops are up against.

The benefits are wide spread. I’ve already mentioned the benefits to national security and our troops. But what about the $74,000 that a trucker could save over the life of a truck. And the $41 billion in savings to American families.

Manufacturers are helping our nation by producing vehicles that reduce our dependence on oil and save American lives abroad. More than 150 U.S. companies are already employing a variety of trucks that make fuel and pollution reductions far beyond the requirements of the proposal being considered today. And individual truck owners who buy cleaner vehicles will save money at the pump that will pay for the upgrade in only a few years. It’s time that these more fuel-efficient vehicles become the norm.

I even hope that American ingenuity will not only succeed in providing cleaner commercial trucks for US roads, but that the same technology can be used to make our military vehicles more efficient and less dependent on oil.

You’re going to hear a lot of numbers today, but I want you to write these numbers down for me right now. We’re going to do what we call in the Army ‘beer math’. Write down one above the other: 12. 365,000. 4. 12 is the number of men that I personally have known who have given their lives on the battlefield in Iraq. Men that I knew and were in my unit. 365,000 was the usual number of American troops serving in Iraq before the drawdown. 4 people is generally the size of an American family. As one soldier, I knew 12 soldiers that were killed. Multiply 12 by 365,000 and you get 4,320,000. That’s 4.3 million soldiers’ lives affected by this issue. Multiply that by a family of 4 and you get 17,280,000. That is 17.2 million American soldiers and their families lives affected directly by this issue.

Another number you should remember is 24. According to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, every 24th military convoy downrange results in the death of a U.S. servicemember. I led missions every day in Baghdad, many of which included hauling fuel for our unit to operate. Up to 80% of the loads of some convoys are fuel. More efficient vehicles mean less fuel needed, which means less of our troops being killed. That means more of them get to go home.

The technology to improve vehicle fuel efficiency is available. Cleaner vehicles more than pay for themselves in lower fuel costs. And the cleaner trucks required by this rule will reduce our oil addiction, improve our national security and, above all, save American lives. I don’t understand what we’re waiting for?