Aspen AREDAY Panelists: America’s reliance on foreign oil must stop |

Aspen AREDAY Panelists: America’s reliance on foreign oil must stop

Moderator Jim Calaway, General Wesley Clark, and Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn listen as T. Boone Pickens speaks during a luncheon panel titled "Clean Energy is National Security" at the Hotel Jerome. The event was part of the 8th annual AREDAY conference. (Patrick Ghidossi/The Aspen Times)
Patrick Ghidossi |

ASPEN – If there is one thing the three panelists at Friday’s American Renewal Energy Day luncheon armchair conversation agreed on, it’s that the United States must eliminate its dependence on foreign oil.

“My passion is to help America become independent of imports of foreign oil,” said Gen. (Ret) Wesley Clark, who sat with T. Boone Pickens and Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn in a talk moderated by the Aspen Institute’s Jim Calaway at the Hotel Jerome ballroom. “In terms of policy, we are writing our own obituary.

“If we don’t fix it, we are going down.”

McGinn agreed, succinctly stating: “We have lost our way.”

The military veterans – along with Pickens – also agreed on the gravity of the topic at hand: “Clean Energy is National Security.”

“These two things are inexplicably linked,” said McGinn, drawing the connection between America’s dependence on foreign oil and its impact it has on the economy. The U.S. pays billions to foreign interests while creating jobs overseas rather than at home, and American soldiers die daily defending overseas oil sources or return from service scarred, he said.

“We are paying too high a price – economically and with lives – trying to defend the lifeline to the world economy: foreign oil,” McGinn said.

The panelists – McGinn, representing the American Council on Renewable Energy; Clark, co-chair of Growth Energy; and Pickens, a leader in the field and founder of BP Capital – were then charged with identifying avenues for change.

“How do you see a way out? To make progress?” asked Calaway.

Pickens, who at age 83 was witty and pointed in his remarks, noted that no president or presidential candidate in recent memory has shared a plan for making America energy independent, though all of them promise to do so.

“I cannot even believe that in the last 40 years no one has had plan,” said Pickens. “It is insane. We need a plan.”

McGinn agreed, breaking the issue down into four categories: energy security, economic security, climate security and environmental security.

“These are the challenges that can be turned into opportunities,” he said. “We are not in charge of our energy future right now. We are more dependent than ever. So everything that we do chips away at that reliance, and we are that much more in control and that much more secure.”

Toward that end, the panelists agreed that there is no single solution to the problem. And, in Pickens’ words, “everything we can do, we have to do.”

“Every segment has its own story,” added Clark. “But we have to work together.”

But after the hour-long conversation, the bottom line remained: clean energy is national security, which trickles down to every aspect of American life.

“K through 12 education is the biggest failure of our country, and our biggest hope,” concluded moderator Calaway. “It relates to this conversation, because how can we continue to cut the budget for education when we are sending our money and our people to Saudi Arabia. Change must happen.”

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