Energy plays a vital role in the national security of a country, and one person who wants to get that message across to U.S. policymakers is Keith Pekau, a member of the group Vets4Energy, which continues to serve the nation as advocates for energy policies to strengthen America's national security.
This week, Pekau, the group's Illinois state director, is joining fellow veterans from across the nation in Washington, D.C., for the group's annual three-day conference, which will include meetings with members of Congress.
"It is always, always interesting," Pekau said. "I really enjoy the camaraderie of the vets involved. They all come from different walks of life, and we don’t have one set platform per se. Everyone talks about their own interests. I think, by and large, everybody there is all about seeing energy policy that makes economic sense."
An energy policy that makes sense to Pekau is lifting the ban on crude exports, which was put in place during the 1970s energy crisis, when the major industrial countries of the world, including the U.S., faced substantial shortages and elevated petroleum prices. Pekau said lifting the ban would enable America to become a global energy supplier of all forms of energy, including oil.
"There is nothing better than to have more control internally, and we need to be self-sufficient with our own energy needs," Pekau said. "If we were exporting more oil worldwide -- not just crude oil, but natural gas -- we could have probably avoided the whole Ukraine situation because we would be able to supply Europe, which we are unable (to do) because they are dependent on Russia. So therefore, they couldn’t stand up to Russia when they took over Ukraine."
Pekau said it is both an economic issue and a security issue.
"If we are not tied to Gulf oil, then we don’t have to constantly send our troops over to fight for Gulf oil, and our interests become less over there," Pekau said. "If we can provide our own supply, completely provide our own supply, we don’t have to be dependent on foreign oil and then we can be exporting, and that puts more pressure on bad actors in the world.
"We talk about the likes of foreign policy being diplomacy, economics and military," Pekau said. "I think there is actually a fourth leg, which is energy. Actually, I think it should be independent of the other ones, even though they are intertwined."
Besides being able to provide U.S. allies with a stable source of energy and weaken the effect that rivals have regarding the use of energy as a coercive power, Pekau said lifting the ban would boost the U.S. economy, as a lot of jobs would be created.
Another policy that Pekau also is concerned with is the renewable-fuel standard (RFS), which he said "would be a disaster from an economic perspective."
While the current RFS was designed to lower greenhouse-gas emissions, it has been shown to cause damage to engines and increase the cost of producing fuel. Referring to his tree and landscape businesses, Pekau said, "(The RFS) will reduce the life of all of our equipment significantly by more than half, so that is extremely expensive for a small business. It adds up, and we can’t pass those costs on to customers. We can try to pass those costs on, but they are not going to buy from us. So it has a huge impact."
Pekau said bigger equipment wouldn't be able to handle the RFS either.
"None of our trucks are built to work on a 15 percent renewable fuel standard," he said. "They are designed for 10 percent. That is going to be disastrous. Running on this gas will destroy the equipment, so I would have to replace it that much faster, and there is no equipment on the market -- small chainsaws or blowers, etc. -- that can handle this 15 percent without getting destroyed faster."