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Monday, January 24, 2022

OPINION:

After being trapped for 26 hours in a snowstorm that shut down northern Virginia’s Interstate 95, Sen. Tim Kaine properly summarized the entire situation as, “Probably a good infrastructure story. Generally, we’re just not as big investors on infrastructure as we should be.” Telling a local radio station, he said he did two things right, he left with plenty of gas in the tank and a heavy coat in the car.

Per the Department of Homeland Security, the 16 critical infrastructures are identified as “the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”


It should not have taken a major storm and a federal lawmaker getting stranded for Washington politicians to recognize a serious infrastructure vulnerability exists. This blizzard overwhelmed an already fragile highway network system that experiences routine traffic jams.  

Eleven months ago, a far greater infrastructure crisis occurred when a blue-norther struck Texas, and over a hundred citizens died. This disaster resulted in the failure of the renewable-energy-sourced power grid to produce enough electricity to meet an extreme surge in need. As a result, the entire system collapsed, leaving tens of millions without heat and businesses without the means to keep operating. That, in turn, immediately affected the regional defense-industrial, emergency services, financial, food and agriculture, government services, health care, information technology, manufacturing and transportation sectors.

Mr. Kaine is correct. The United States is not a good investor of its own critical infrastructures. Even investor strategies of portfolio diversity, continual tracking and future analysis are ignored. In Texas, without the realization that overlapping sources of energy (portfolio diversity) could maintain energy needs during unexpected strains, the push for renewable energy has resulted in greater emphasis on more weather-dependent windmills and solar-panel systems. Renewable energy is good, but it does have limitations and drawbacks.

It is inconceivable that in the name of environmental protection, Texas was caught in a position of not being able to handle its own unexpected emergency. For well over a century, Texas and Oklahoma have been the nation’s top producers of fossil fuels. Along with Alaska, those two states are leading America in having once again become energy producers.

Further impeding the application of critical infrastructure investment strategies are special interest group-focused politicians and lobbyists at all government levels. Members of Congress are spending more time criticizing and undermining their opposition parties than fixing immediate and long-term problems. Neither party is free of guilt. They insist on the right of free speech and ideas — providing those words and ideas match their own narrow-minded interests.

In the case of war against pollution, the extreme left wants to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. The biggest problem is that these “environmental reforms” fail to take into consideration the immediate second-and third-order effects from their legislated reforms.    

Maine was a classic example in the mid-1970s when it outlawed log drives claiming this 200-year-old practice was somehow endangering the abundant fish that were flourishing in the rivers. This resulted in logs having to be transported out of the woods by tractor-trailers that overwhelmed the deep-country two-lane-road system. Bellowing diesel engines commenced disturbing the wildlife, consuming a massive amount of fuel and polluting the air. Maine then had to expand its transportation infrastructure and cut new and wider roads out of its pristine wilderness.

Now, the left wants the United States to free itself from fossil fuels. The pollution caused by the United States is far less than what is produced by Russia, China and India. These three nations are buying every barrel of oil possible coming out of the Middle East and the Caucasus region.

Until all nations in the world work together to end dependency on fossil fuels, it is not in the best interest of the United States to minimize its oil and natural gas production and usage capabilities. Furthermore, the national defense cannot be jeopardized. Planes do not fly using windmills, and solar panels cannot power-armored tanks.    

Near-total dependency on Middle East sources of fuel no longer exists for America. In turn, the critical infrastructures of industry manufacturing, defense-industrial, energy, financial services and transportation are no longer vulnerable to another nation’s special interests. Without thinking the situation through or not caring about the consequences of bad decisions, the left wants to roll back our nation’s gains.

What needs to be rolled back is the practice of allowing national security and critical infrastructure vulnerabilities to either be created or continue to exist.

• Col. (Retired) Wes Martin is a university instructor of Global Security.


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