Efficient heavy-duty vehicles are an American victory

On Memorial Day, Americans across the land patriotically hung their flags and paid tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice of service, protecting lives, liberty and the values that we hold dear. As a retired Navy veteran of 38 years, I have seen too many of our brave service men and women lose their limbs or lives protecting, amongst other priorities, vital strategic U.S. fuel interests or, simply getting fuel to our operating forces on the front lines. The work is hard and very expensive. We must wean ourselves from expensive-to-buy and expensive-to-defend fossil fuel dependency. We now have the opportunity to be better and to do what we do as Americans:  Lead the way to improving and making things better and smarter. We have an opportunity to make meaningful strides in improving fuel efficiency.

As deputy commander of U.S. Transportation Command, I experienced firsthand, how our over dependency on oil in particular puts our troops at immediate and sustained risk. In Iraq, in 2007 alone, one in every 24 fuel and water convoys resulted in an American death, and one in eight resulted in serious injuries. We required multiple convoys every day. Our operational commanders recognized this and made finding more efficient and alternative energy sources a critical mission need.  Reducing our dependence on liquid fuels on the battlefield is an operational necessity. In 2011 CNA’s Military Advisory Board (MAB) similarly found that the US domestic transportation sector was 94 percent dependent on oil and that represented a strategic vulnerability and a national security risk, here at home.

{mosads}New fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, expected soon from the National Highway Traffic Safety Board and the Environmental Protection Agency, would increase investment in advanced technologies that will increase truck efficiency, advance our nation’s energy independence and advance national security on several fronts. Just as importantly to our battlefield commanders, it would speed the deployment of options to lower the demand for costly transportation fuels, increase combat effectiveness and improve security for our armed forces.

Incorporating more efficient and advanced technologies, such as hydraulic hybrids and alternative fuels, is already having a direct and positive impact on the efficiency of American military heavy machinery, from trucks to ships to generators. The benefit to stretching a gallon of diesel to take our heavy-duty trucks father down the road on less fuel is clear. Reducing oil use improves our operational effectiveness, decreases the size and number of dangerous resupply convoys, better ensures delivery to point of need and will save American lives.

Because new heavy-duty truck fuel standards will lessen our nation’s dependence on oil, these new technologies also help strengthen national security at home. A strong economy supports a more modern and successful military, which serves to keep the nation secure. Unrest around the world can and does lead to price spikes in globally traded oil that weakens the economy. For example, during Libya’s civil war in 2011, the price of oil worldwide was pushed over $100 per barrel. Even though the United States did not import a drop of oil from Libya that year, American gas prices shot up 33 cents in just two weeks, thanks to the global nature of oil and associated price spikes.

Volatile oil prices have a knock-on effect that reverberates throughout the economy. Investors do not open their purse strings when they are uncertain of future energy prices. Goods and services are often overpriced to hedge against energy costs. Expenses rise. Economic growth slows down.

The opportunity to reduce risk is in front of us now. Deploying advanced, more efficient heavy-duty vehicle technologies keeps operating expenses and shipping costs down, and helps make business planning more predictable. The economy is more stable and stronger. Investors feel more confident.

A strong heavy-duty fuel economy rule will strengthen our economy and our national security, while helping our military do its job more efficiently, securely and successfully. Any time we can make our nation more efficient, more self-reliant, and less tethered to resources we can’t control, we score an American victory. And that victory keeps our troops, our economy and our nation safer. As a Navy leader once noted, in its relationship to planning, strategy and winning, fuel assumes the character of a dynamic force. A strong heavy-duty fuel economy rule is itself a dynamic force for the nation’s advantage.

Rondeau is a Navy veteran of 38 years and was previously assigned as Deputy Commander of U.S. Transportation Command. She is a member of CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board, an elite group of retired three- and four-star flag and general officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps that studies pressing issues of the day to assess their impact on America’s national security.


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