Archive for August, 2010


I spent the majority of my adult life in service to this nation.  As a soldier for 26 years I knew that I would be called upon to respond to threats to the Constitution, “foreign and domestic.”  On two occasions, I left my family behind to deploy to combat zones with short notice for long durations.  I went in harm’s way because I swore an oath to do so.  Members of congress take a very similar oath.  Some in the Senate appear to have forgotten that oath.

One of the greatest threats facing this country is our dependence on a strategic commodity we do not control, oil.  Countries who do not share a vision of what is in the best interests of our way of life control what we need to keep the engines of our transportation system moving.  Another threat is that posed by climate change.  The droughts in Russia that have spawned wildfires are a manifestation of the hottest months on record.  Vladimir Putin has banned the export of grain as a result of this climate disaster.  Wheat has hit a 23 month high on commodities markets.  Who will this directly affect?  A nation suffering another climate catastrophe, a nuclear armed nation: Pakistan.  With potentially millions of starving people in that flood ravaged country, where will they turn to for food?  Strategic thinkers have long recognized the potential of population migration for causing war.  That is why the Pentagon and the CIA have established agencies to consider the implication of climate change.  Climate change is considered settled science by these organizations.  What is kicked about like a political football is man’s contribution.  My view of man’s contribution is like my view of secondhand smoke: it may not kill me, but I don’t want it around my children.  As a military planner, I always considered the most likely and the most dangerous courses of action my opponent might take and I planned for them.  Significant human contribution to climate change is the most dangerous course of action and we must plan accordingly.  It is irresponsible to think otherwise.

Our addiction to oil, the only strategic commodity, makes us vulnerable from a national security perspective.  Immediate action we can take as voters is to make sure our elected leaders do the following:

1. support a renewable portfolio standard in the state of Florida.  2. Support feed in tariffs so utilities must buy consumer produced electricity at the same rate they sell it.  3. Support elimination of tax breaks and subsidies to coal, oil and natural gas industries.  There are enough economic incentives to continue to produce.  4. Reduce the vulnerabilities of critical military installations to grid failure by supporting and encouraging third party investment for demand reduction, smart grid management and alternative/renewable energy on select installations.  5. Support the policies and legislation as noted below:

a. Increase the standards for efficiency for our cars.  China, Iraq and Venezuela have had no problem enacting such requirements.  What do they know that we don’t?  Let’s deny those oil producers who do not share our best interests the opportunity to dictate to us at the pumps.

b. President Obama’s 2011 budget proposes to eliminate nine different tax expenditures that primarily benefit oil and gas companies.  Cutting these special tax deductions, preferences, and credits would save the government about $45 billion over the next ten years.

c. Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act (S-3405) which would eliminate nearly $20 billion worth of big oil tax subsidies while preserving subsidies for companies with less than $100 million in revenue.

d. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently introduced the End Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act (HR-5644) which would close big oil tax loopholes worth $30 billion over five years.

e. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) introduced the Improving Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Use By Federal Agencies Act of 2010 (S-3251) that would provide Federal Agencies the authority to actually place a price signal on energy security.

6. Defeat the policies and legislation noted below:

a. The Rockefeller Bill, an amendment to be offered in September as part of the Senate Energy Package would prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.  Although Senator Rockefeller is defending his big coal constituents, the rest of us will suffer the consequences of this effort to go back in time.

I have seen the recent commercials from the Petroleum Institute where “little people” talk about how increased taxes on big oil will hurt them.  That is of course if big oil passes along that increase instead of absorbing it in their record setting profits.  We, the little people, must act.  We must hold our elected leadership accountable.  I hope you join us on August 31st as we who have taken the oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, once again deploy in defense of this great country.

Operation Free is a coalition of veterans and national security organizations dedicated to securing America with clean energy.  The organization is hosting an event in Tampa, Florida on August 31st.

Col. Dan Nolan, US Army (ret.) Col. Nolan is a 26 year veteran of the US Army and current resident of Tampa, FL.  During his military career, Col. Nolan commanded the 1st Armored Division Artillery in Germany and Kosovo as well as served as principal advisor to General Tommy Franks at US Central Command.  Col Nolan is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and holds a Masters of Arts from the Naval War College as well as a Masters of Science from the University of Southern California.  Col. Nolan currently serves as CEO of Sabot 6, Inc. which focuses on strategic military planning as it relates to energy security.


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What would it be like if Florida had coal deposits?  Suppose we didn’t have to import coal from other states to feed our power plants.  If that were so would the state’s energy plan be derailed if a coal ash spill ran down the hills near Clermont and buried some of the homes there?  Suppose there was an explosion in a mine near Tallahassee and miners were killed and injured.  Would policy-makers consider that a reason to stop mining and burning coal?  What if the rolling hills of orange groves along the new highway from Apopka to I-4 had to be blasted away in order for mining companies to have easier access to the coal?  Would electricity consumers complain about the lost crop and scenery or would they be satisfied to pass the destruction off to economic growth?  Are Floridians accessories to the human suffering and ecological devastation that happens where coal is mined?

These are questions we don’t have to ask in Florida because we import the total of the coal we burn.  The questions have to do with morality and a beneficient society and few people have wanted to ask them.  Florida policy-makers and coal importers can keep quiet about them.  Along the same lines, few people are asking whether Americans are responsible for the deadly drug wars in Mexico because Americans by the most drugs.

There is one coal question, however, you would think harder for policy-makers to walk around.  The question is money; the money that leaves Florida to pay for all the coal we import.  In 2008, the amount was over one and a half billion dollars.  We need the money here.  How can we keep that kind of money circulating here and still have the energy we need to cool our homes and businesses?

By redirecting that money into energy efficiency and renewable energy we can begin to reduce the devastating results of coal mining elsewhere, reduce the need for additional power plants here and build Florida efficiency and renewable businesses.  As the Public Service Commission examines the energy efficiency plans submitted by the state’s utility companies it should increase the amounts directed into efficiency and renewables proportional to the amount a utility spends on coal.  Southeast states lag behind the rest of the nation in spending for these in-state, job-creating purposes.  Yet Florida is among the states with the highest amounts of dollars lost on coal imports.

Coal fired power plants are the United States’ largest source of heat-trapping emissions.  Scientists are telling us the heat waves we are experiencing this summer are a prelude to what will be the norm for the next thirty to forty years.  Russia lost a huge wheat crop this summer because of heat and drought.  The US could be next.  Yet, a few candidates for Florida political office are calling for more coal-power plants!  They attempt to disguise the long-standing issues surrounding the coal industry by calling for “clean” coal.

Doctors and lawyers haven’t stopped black lung disease from taking lives and regulations haven’t stopped methane from exploding in mines.  Biologists decry the habitat lost and water contaminated by mountain top removal.  The irony is that we have advanced efficiency and alternative technologies on the shelf ready to go.  But some policy-makers, for whatever reason, insist on dragging the ignominious coal legacy into the 21st century.  The only way coal will ever be clean is when we stop mining and burning it!  The opportunities lost for energy efficiency and renewable solar are being covered up with “dirty” money.

Sam Kendall

Union of Concerned Scientists Report: Burning Coal / Burning Cash: Florida’s Dependence on Imported Coal.

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