Feb 152010
Authors: Devin Lowell

After reports this month of U.S. soldier deaths in Pakistan and the revelation that more than 200 ground troops are operating there, America has seemingly embroiled itself in a three-front war against terrorism.

Many have failed to realize, however, that the greatest blow we can strike against Islamic extremism can be done at home by cutting our dependence on foreign oil and building a clean-energy economy.

The new energy economy would increase American soft power as well as weaken the grip of oppressive regimes in the oil states. These are both important steps in fighting terrorism.

We are not at war with a people, nation or religion, but rather a specific ideology. The fundamentalist Salafi theology has spread out from Saudi Arabia, with the help of that regime’s massive oil revenues.

It is the petrodollars of the Wahabi ruling family that proselytized the ideological justifications for the actions of al-Qaeda across the Gulf and into North Africa and Central Asia.

Key to the financial resources of fundamentalist sects is the oil wealth of those funding the organizations. A hefty sum of this money supports Salafi schools and the radical imams that preach messages like the one that drives al-Qaeda fighters. Large amounts of the fighters and arms flowing into Iraq and Afghanistan come from Saudi Arabia and Iran, backed in some way by oil money.

This is also related to what author Thomas Friedman calls “The First Law of Petropolitics.” That is, in oil-reliant states, when the price of oil goes up, freedoms like those we enjoy in the U.S. tend to decline.

Essentially, when tight-fisted regimes like Saudi Arabia, Iran and now Russia, only have to rely on oil revenues as state income, they lose accountability. Consequentially, ideas of freedom and democracy fall by the wayside.

It is no secret that much of America’s soft power deteriorated during the Bush administration. However, a surefire way to regain much of what we lost and to combat extremism simultaneously is to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and build a new, clean-energy economy.

We can do this by putting a price on carbon emissions in the U.S., through a cap-and-trade system or a carbon tax.

We should also reinvest that money in grants and loans for the design, development and manufacture of new energy technologies, such as wind turbines, solar panels and plug-in hybrids. Along with this, stricter fuel efficiency standards will also be needed.

Now, it was neither the Democrats nor the Republicans that got us into this tangled web of oil, consumption and terrorism. The problem is a generational one.

It was the lack of responsibility by the Baby Boomers that plowed forward into borrowing billions from China to buy oil from Saudi Arabia, to build McMansions further and further into the exurbs, and to plunge into a several-trillion-dollar war.

It is the responsibility of our generation to bring back a common sense ethic of pragmatism, innovation, and responsibility. By making America cleaner and greener, we will make it stronger and strike a great blow at the heart (and bank accounts) of extremism.

Devin Lowell is a columnist for the University Daily Kansan. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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