Friday, September 7, 2012

Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn – Alliance for Sustainable Colorado 2012 Hero of Sustainability

Many people understand the direct link between oil and America’s enemies. But what they may not understand are the realities of our oil dependency as a nation.  As a 35-year veteran of the Navy and President of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), Vice Admiral McGinn understands these realities because he’s experienced them.  The good news is that his knowledge and experience puts him in the ideal position to change our dependency on traditional energy sources by creating opportunities for Americans.  Better yet, he’s leading the charge.

In addition to his ACORE presidency, Admiral McGinn lends his expertise to, among other energy and climate boards, the CNA Military Advisory Board.  The CNA Board comprises 11 recently retired three- and four-star generals and admirals, examining the national security implications of climate change and the nexus of energy, climate change and national security.

McGinn believes America’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels poses significant security risks to the country and our military.  This is not a new issue for him.  He became interested in national energy security issues during the OPEC oil embargo in the 1970’s when there were long lines at the gas pumps.  “We were relying too heavily on imported oil.  I realized then how vulnerable we really were, and I haven’t lost focus on the critical link between energy and America’s economy and national security,” recalls McGinn in CNA’s Voices of Experience.  Further, he believes, “our dependence on fossil fuels comes as a cost that is not fully reflected in the amount paid at the gas pump,” says McGinn.  “Every time we fill up, we need to understand the costs involved, especially the high price we pay with the lives of the men and women in the armed forces.” 

Our dependence on oil undermines our national security on multiple levels.  Vice Admiral McGinn explains that oil’s pervasiveness in America’s energy policy forces the country to engage at various levels with hostile and unstable regimes, weakening our international leverage and putting our economy in a precarious position.  According to one CNA report, “The United States consumes 25 percent of the world’s oil production, yet controls less than three percent of an increasingly tight supply.”  The trouble is that oil is traded on a global market, a market that is vulnerable to manipulation by those who control the largest shares.  “Without bold action now to significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, our national security will be at greater risk,” testified Vice Admiral McGinn, before a U.S. Senate panel.  “Fierce global competition and conflict over dwindling supplies of fossil fuel will be a major part of the future strategic landscape.”  America’s goal should be, he believes, to relieve our oil dependency by diversifying our fuel supply, increasing the efficient use of fuel and increasing our use of low carbon technologies.

Moving toward low carbon energy sources and technologies also helps confront the challenge of global climate change.  “Climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security, acting as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the world’s most volatile regions, adding tension to stable regions, worsening terrorism and likely dragging the united States into conflicts over water and other critical resource shortages,: testified Admiral McGinn before a Senate Committee.  “The truth is, climate change aside, our energy choices have a direct bearing on our economic well-being,” he says.  “If we’re not economically strong and stable we aren’t going to be militarily stable.” To address these challenges, there needs to be recognition that “climate change, national security, and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.” 

Security, infrastructure, and climate threats are more than challenges-they are opportunities-opportunities to create industries around energy efficiency and renewable and low carbon technologies.  Notes Vice Admiral McGinn, “One of ACORE’s guiding principles is that we are for all kinds of renewable energy, and against none.  ACORE is about building a more secure and prosperous America with clean renewable energy because that is part of the solution.  We need to apply every technology and efficiency to solve our energy challenges. There is no ‘one size fits all’ energy solution.” The energy platform can’t be rigid. The platform needs to evolve depending on variables like need, geography and availability of resources, to name just a few.  For example, solar might be the best resource for Arizona while wind is better in the Midwest. We are looking at an integrated system of variable parts and we need to look for solutions to fit with that system.

The Alliance for Sustainable Colorado ( will celebrate Vice Admiral McGinn as the 2012 Hero of Sustainability on September 11, 2012 in Denver, CO.  According to Vice Admiral McGinn, “we can be the ‘Next Greatest Generation’ in the 21st Century by taking on the new challenge so today that are threatening our way of life.  We can do something about these challenges.  The beauty is that to do so doesn’t mean sacrifice – it means more jobs, more national and energy security, and more economic security.  Let’s get over the fear of the future and do something now to shape a better future for all of us.  Business as usual is not the answer.”

This article is a truncated version of the article from ICOSA Magazine ( written by Kelly de la Torre.  For more on Vice Admiral McGinn go to, and

No comments:

Post a Comment