Kyoto Never! Oil Consumption and National Security

February 27th, 2005 - by admin

Jamie Weinstein / Cornell Daily Sun / Renew America – 2005-02-27 23:31:33

(February 23, 2005) — Walking through Ho Plaza last week, I was confronted with a startling announcement: The Kyoto Protocol had become International Law. Whether or not that statement is true — international law can be quite ambiguous — it is worthwhile to consider why President Bush rescinded US support for the treaty. After all, his decision caused many a European to whine.

The reasons why President Bush was correct in nixing Kyoto are numerous and often cited by Kyoto’s critics. But there is one area where Kyoto would have a disastrous effect which isn’t widely known: national security.

The Pentagon Is the Biggest Federal Consumer of Oil
The military costs associated with adopting Kyoto are stark. When Kyoto first reared its head in a serious way in the late 1990s, Macubin T. Owens, a professor at the Naval War College and adjunct fellow at the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, outlined the danger in complying with the treaty. He wrote, “The federal government is the largest single user of energy inside the United States, and the Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest user within the federal government, accounting for 70 percent of the government’s total.”

When President Bush withdrew from Kyoto in 2001, the treaty mandated that the United States drop its greenhouse-gas emissions seven percent below its 1990 levels.

Logically, to meet the requirements of Kyoto, the Department of Defense would have to make some serious cuts. As Owens commented, “according to an internal DOD memo subsequently made public, reducing DOD fuel usage by 10 percent, a not unlikely target, would have a significant impact on unit readiness of US ground forces, steaming time for US Navy ships and flying hours for the aviation components of all the services. The memo states that in the event of such a reduction, it would be difficult for the American military to meet the requirements of the US national security strategy.”

Serious to say the least. Even more so when you consider that this was written in 1998, in a pre-Sept. 11 world. I think it is fair to say that our national security strategy has changed, requiring far more exertion from US Armed forces. At the very least, Kyoto would severely constrain training operations by our military. Unacceptable pre-Sept. 11, and unthinkable post-Sept. 11.

Clinton Exempted Military Pollution from International Regulation
But it gets worse. How about the greenhouse gas emissions released by the US military during war. It’s unclear how it would be counted. Back in 1998, when Owens wrote his article, he indicated that the Clinton administration claimed that military operations “pursuant to the United Nations Charter” would be exempt from the treaty.

Yet few military operations taken by the United States ever occur with United Nations backing. Under Clinton, both Kosovo and US/British enforcement of no-fly zones over Iraq occurred without UN approval. Green house emissions released during these operations probably would have counted against us under Kyoto. And almost certainly the emissions released during our recent operation to oust Saddam would have counted against us.

Owens writes that adopting Kyoto would allow “pressure groups, both domestic and international, to hamstring US military power.” According to Owens, “[t]hey could do so by subjecting to scrutiny every movement of US military forces, whether in support of US security obligations abroad, or training exercises at home arguing that greenhouse gas use was improperly accounted for.”

Constraints to Pentagon Are ‘Unacceptable’
I know there are many on this campus excited at the prospect of an international treaty constraining US military operations, but such restraints to US power by international forces are unacceptable in terms of both security and breaches to our national sovereignty.

For these reasons alone, President Bush was completely justified in pulling out of Kyoto.

But, of course, these are not the only concerns. Not by a long shot. The economic costs associated with Kyoto are staggering. Economist Stephen Brown of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank estimated in 2001, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, that under optimistic projections, implementation of Kyoto would reduce US GDP by 3 to 4 percent. Whether or not the actual effect is more or less, any percentage drop in GDP at all would be devastating to our economy.

Perhaps that is why in 1998 the United States Senate passed the Byrd/Hagel resolution by a vote of 95-0. The resolution mandated, among other things, that the United States government not participate in any global warming treaty that would hurt the economy of the United States. 95-0 is a pretty imposing figure. That is probably why President Clinton signed the treaty but never submitted it to the Senate for ratification. Even he knew that the treaty wouldn’t fly.

Kyoto Is Not the Answer
Radical environmentalists have been predicting mass death caused by environmental degradation for some time. In fact, you could even say it’s routine now. The culprit du jour is global warming. Whether or not global warming is actually a serious threat, and not just another exaggeration in line with all the other environmental exaggerations over the last several decades, Kyoto is not the answer.

Even if Kyoto were to be fully implemented, the effects would be minimal. As senior policy analyst H. Sterling Burnett of the National Center for Policy Analysis wrote in 2001, “[a]ccording to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, if all of the signatories meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets, the earth will be between 0.07 degrees Celsius and 0.19 degrees Celsius cooler than it would be absent Kyoto.”

He goes on to say that this represents “a temperature difference so small it cannot be measured by ground-based temperature gauges.”

While it seems the benefits of adopting Kyoto would be at best marginal, the costs would be extraordinary in both security and economic terms. International law or not, the United States should stand with Australia in defiance of the Kyoto treaty.

Yet on Ho Plaza and off some still scream Kyoto Now! I think not. How about Kyoto Never!

Jamie Weinstein is a junior at Cornell University and writes a column for the Cornell Daily Sun. He can be contacted at
© 2004 Cornell Daily Sun
© Copyright 2005 by Jamie Weinstein

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