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Lippold: Diverse energy sources enhance our national security

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Amidst all the turmoil and cynicism surrounding politics these days, it has been gratifying to watch Sens. Barrasso and Enzi stand up to the growing influence of powerbrokers in Washington, D.C., bent on undermining America’s goal to become the world’s energy leader. The senators realize that development of a diverse portfolio of energy sources will strengthen U.S. national security. Specifically, the citizens of Wyoming should thank them for their commitment to take on powerful entrenched interests that seek to control the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), an important component of the U.S. energy portfolio.

One of the primary objectives of the RFS is to promote the use of renewable fuels to achieve greater energy security and independence. Logically, this means that the RFS should promote domestic biofuel production. Unfortunately, the current construct of the RFS, which hinges on acquiring ‘credits’ to demonstrate compliance with the program, has done little to promote the expansion of our biofuel infrastructure. Instead, the RFS has managed to create a class of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ determined almost entirely by who owns facilities that blend renewables into fuel, which is how those credits are earned. Independent refiners like those in the mountain west who do not own blending facilities fall squarely into the ‘have not’ column. Fortunately, there are ways to fix the RFS that expand biofuel production without needlessly harming our nation’s independent refineries.

As a 26-year Navy veteran, I served as a Surface Warfare Officer on five different ships, including guided missile cruisers and destroyers, to protect U.S. national security interests across the globe. Foremost among those missions was to safeguard the sea-lanes of communications, or SLOCs, that facilitate the global economy, including the flow of oil to and from the United States. I have experienced firsthand – particularly during my command of the USS Cole when it was attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists – the real-world implications of the term “energy security” when our nation’s forward-deployed assets are placed in harm’s way to safeguard a reliable and affordable supply of energy for U.S. consumers and our economy.

In the case of the RFS, a simple policy change would help safeguard our nation’s energy security. It has become all too routine to hear refiners report that they spend more money on RFS compliance credits than on payroll for their own workforce. If some of our nation’s refineries are forced into bankruptcy as a result of this program, thousands of hard-working employees – many of whom took a chance on punching the Republican ticket for the first time to choose President Trump – would end up out of work. This scenario would also create costly gaps in our nation’s fuel supplies, potentially generating gasoline shortages and price volatility that hit consumers right in the pocketbook, including right here in Wyoming. Clearly, the RFS situation needs to be addressed.

Wyoming’s senators understand how perilous this situation has become. That’s why they support policy changes that would greatly reduce the risk of the shutdown of our country’s independent refineries. Robust domestic refining is necessary to effectively process crude oil into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and other refined products and petrochemicals, all of which constitute central parts of our national security. Our domestic refining capacity provides an essential bulwark against the specter of foreign oil dependence. It must be protected at all costs.

Sens. Barrasso and Enzi are right to stand up for common sense and push for reforming the RFS. Correcting the imbalances in this program would enhance our national security and help maintain this great nation’s energy dominance. At the earliest opportunity, the EPA should affirm its own commitment to U.S. energy independence and address the longstanding problems with the Renewable Fuel Standard.

CDR Lippold is a retired naval officer who was the Commanding Officer of USS Cole (DDG 67) when it survived a suicide terrorist attack by al Qaeda and is a highly regarded national security expert who currently serves as President of Lippold Strategies, LLC.


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