James Jones: New National Security Advisor is a Climate Change Risk Factor

Gen. James Jones looks like a good soldier, but President-elect Barack Obama’s choice as a National Security Advisor just spent two years making energy policy with one of the most influential climate-policy footdraggers in the country - the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Far from being a force for good, if Jones pursues the policies that the Chamber has been pushing, he will undermine the security of the United States - and the habitability of the whole planet.

That said, there are reasons to be optimistic.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, Jones said some blunt, sensible things that would have got him in trouble if he was working in the Bush White House:

“You can’t use the word energy independence. That to me is not a valid phrase. It is designed to excite people. But it is simply not going to happen. (Ed note: “Ooh-rah! General, Sir!”)

“But what the U.S. can do is supply leadership and put our own house in order. We can put technology to greater use and can help developing countries skip the pollution era. It is a big part of the national security portfolio.”

If Jones thinks it’s possible to “skip the pollution era” by using “clean coal,” - as the Chamber dissemblers and their big funders, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, like to argue, then the promise of climate change leadership from the Obama administration will come up painfully short.

For the time being, however, Jones probably deserves the benefit of the doubt, regardless of how obstructionist the Chamber is promising to be in the coming months.



I wholeheartedly agree with your criticism of Gen. Jones’ climate change stances and lack of desire to work on real solutions to the climate crisis.  However, it looks like, as National Security Adviser, he won’t have any input on environmental policy.  That is more the role of the EPA, Department of the Interior, NASA, NOAA, and National Science Foundation (and other science branches of government), which I am confident will be staffed by people friendly to real efforts combating climate change.

I don’t know if the fuss on this matter is worth the time and effort, though it may be a good idea to monitor what Gen. Jones does at his post.  (Hopefully this ends up to be true.)

The problem with Jones is that national security is tied very closely to energy security. In his job at the US Chamber of Commerce Jones played up the “exploit all domestic energy” in the name of energy independence and national security” narrative very well.

What this leads to is the further use of carbon-intensive energy technology like coal-fired electric, expanded offshore oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and coal-to-liquid fuel. If that is the recommendation he makes, then we’re in trouble.

Now, of course, James could take a different tact and argue that we could decrease reliance on foreign energy by investing in renewable technology and much higher fuel efficiency standards for the trasnportation sector.

So, yes, I agree that we have to keep a very close on eye on Jones.

… and I am hoping that Obama will lean on him for security counsel, but temper it with advice from climatologists when those issues overlap environmental concerns.  It looks to me as though he (Obama) is capable of bringing in qualified people & keeping track of what their expertise is – at least, fingers crossed!

This will be a good focus within which to asses Pres. BHO’s leadership. I suspect he won’t take the “over to you, Dick” apprach, will extract quality security advice from Jones and insist, maybe even convince Jones that his responsibility is to fairly assess all approaches to security including breaking towards the green away from the brown.

benefit of the doubt for the time being, despite his statements as head of the US COC’s Institute for 21st Century Energy in favor of continued investment in and use of fossil fuels. I do worry about both his and Obama’s endorsement of “clean coal”. But I’m going to hope that, at least in Obama’s case, his statements were driven by what he saw as political necessity, and that when it becomes clear that CCS isn’t happening  (at least any time soon) he will jettison the idea.

I understand your enthusiasm for General Jone’s dismissive attitude toward energy independence since as that is often a code word for domestic drilling.  However, his endorsement of energy interdependence is potentially just as bad.  I hope he means cooperation on measures to halt climate change, but I fear that what he means is continued exploration for and use of fossil fuels specifically, petroleum. If that is what he means it would be  unfortunate because it means that he favors policies that not only will not be adequate to stop Climaticide but that will provide support for an continued imperial military presence around the world to defend fossil fuel supply lanes.

We shall see.

 Blogging for the future at Climaticide Chronicles

In addition, I would observe that talking about clean coal is not an apriori disqualification from rationality:

1) When coal companies talk about clean coal, they seem to be using it as a way to keep burning current coal plants and push off the hard work to the future.

2) But, there are plenty of quite rational researchers and others who think it wouldbe a very good idea to do the research to make sequestration work, if there’s a way to do it economically (unclear), not just to allow some coal use, but (sometimes) as a way to help draw down CO2. I hear such people talk often, at Stanford, or elsewhere.  See for example GCEP: http://gcep.stanford.edu/events/symposium2008/presentations.htm

I’m actually quite happy if there’s a disciplined R&D program [but not if someone just throws buckets of money irrationally] for “clean coal”.  As to the meaning of such, see:


Of course, it’s fairly irrelevant to us here in Northen California, given that we use very little coal and have no intention of using more, and every intention of using less.  But, there are lots of places where, if there were economic CCS retrofits, it would be helpful in transition.  Now, if I had to bet, I’d bet it won’t happen, but it’s actually worth trying.  There is some fascinating materials science going on, and perhaps some will work, although I wouldn’t wait for it.  it’s research.