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Why Energy Independence Is Crucial to America’s Future
General Wesley Clark is a Senior Fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center and a Co-Chairman at Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group. He also leads a Democratic political action committee known as "WesPAC," which he formed after dropping out of the 2004 race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Though now retired, Clark served in the U.S. army for 38 years, commanding at the battalion, brigade and division level, and serving in a number of significant staff positions. As the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, Clark commanded Operation Allied Force in the Kosovo War, saving the lives of roughly 1.5 million Albanians from the threat of ethnic cleansing. After graduating as valedictorian of his class at West Point, Clark was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he obtained a degree in philosophy, politics and economics. He later graduated from the Command and General Staff College with a master's degree in military science.
Question: How can America return value to its economy?
Wesley Clark: You know, President Eisenhower said, “The real strength of America is not our military/industrial complex and it’s not our armed forces, it’s the economy in America.” And today, you know, we’re struggling again with the economy. We’ve had an unprecedented financial collapse that no one 30 or 40 years ago would have ever anticipated because we thought we had all the controls in place after the Depression of the 1930s to have prevented this. The controls were gradually relaxed. Leverage, excessive leverage took over and suddenly we find ourselves in the longest recession since World War II. And although the recession is technically ended now, job creation typically is a lagging indicator.
Businesses are sitting on the sidelines with trillions of dollars to invest; they’re not doing it. Traditionally, we’ve powered the economy with consumption. Seventy-one percent of the GDP is consumption. And consumers are tapped out and they’re over-leveraged and they’re trying to de-leverage and so this is a tough time in the American economy. It’s a tough time for the administration because they know that until you can overcome the loss of eight million jobs in some way and give people hope for the future, there’s a lot of angry people in America.
The American middle class has most of its assets really tied up in its homes and those homes have sunk in value, due to no fault of the people themselves and this is a huge issue, even for a country as great and wonderful as America.
How do we get value back in this economy? Well, I think at this time what we need to do is go after the easiest money available, that’s the $300 to $400 billion every year that we spend importing oil into the United States. It’s actually that much money. In July, we paid $29 billion to other governments and some international oil companies, but mostly to other governments so could have the privilege of driving up to the filling station and saying, "fill 'er up." Or put the credit card into the pump and stick it in there. And this is something that if we really want to create jobs in America, we have to tackle this and we have to tackle it now.
We’ve been talking for over 30 years about energy independence. We never got it. We have staggered through one crisis in the Middle East after another; we’ve tried to build relationships. I wrote a paper in 1973 saying some day we might have to put military forces in the Middle East to assure access to oil, and you’d have thought I committed treason in the Pentagon. They were scared to death of the paper. They couldn’t imagine that we would actually use military forces to protect access to oil. Well, what do you think the Gulf war was about? And why do you think we went back into Iraq? And in an indirect way, that’s what the whole terrorism issue has been. It’s America’s consumption of oil feeding dollar exports abroad creating petro-dollars which have enriched a lot of these other countries which have fed the resources and have created conflict.
And so here we are in 2010 spending over $300 billion in an economy that’s struggling, struggling to get any economic growth. That $300 billion a year is 3 million American jobs at $100,000 a year or 10 million jobs at $30,000 a year, and there’s Americans that don’t make $30,000 a year. That’s a lot of jobs. That’s a lot of money. That’s 50% of the Pentagon budget. It’s almost as much money as we pay on interest to the national debt. It’s enough to completely fix infrastructure in this country in a very short period of time, give every child a chance to go to college and fix healthcare. That’s the money that we are sending abroad and we can keep that money in America. All we need is the leadership to do it.
How do you do it? Well, the base is to switch off consumption of gasoline because the amount of oil in America that we’re able to pump has declined. We used to be an oil exporting country, now we’re an oil importing country. We’re still producing over five million barrels a day of oil, but we’re consuming about 19 million barrels a day of petroleum products. And the gap is mostly imports. In the second quarter of this year, April-May-June, we imported an average of more than 10 million barrels a day of petroleum products. And that’s’ simply unsustainable. The cost of that is two percent of the American GDP.
And how do we get out of it? Electric automobiles? Compressed natural gas, we’ve got plenty of it. Biofuels? We’re growing corn and enough biofeed stock that if we wanted to, we can create all the liquid fuel we would ever need in this country. And we have the technology to do it.
When the energy business started becoming a national security problem in the 1970’s, we couldn’t do that. We did not have the technology, but we do have that technology now. But what we also have is we have very strong forces on the other side resisting change. It’s about pocketbooks. It’s about job security; it’s about traditional patterns of performance by companies. And so if you’re an oil company, it’s about oil. But if you’re an electric car company, you’re fighting to get traction in the consumer market. And if you’re producing biofuel, like men and women in the Midwest are producing ethanol, you’re fighting against the petroleum industry. Because as... and I work with the ethanol industry, I work with oil, I work with gas, I work with electric automobiles. I’m across the board in the business community because that’s the only way you learn it. And you see the struggles and the tensions.
It was easy to start the Internet because there really wasn’t any competition. And when we started personal computing and people didn’t come up and say, “Oh, these personal computers, they’re really dangerous. They’ll ruin your family life, they have toxic substances, you can’t afford to have them, there’s electrical emissions, they might crash airplanes, please let’s don’t adopt personal computers.” There was no... the people who made slide rules, they just weren’t powerful enough to keep us from having personal computers.
But when it come to energy, it’s different. So we’re in a big struggle and there are a lot of forces in this economy trying to hang onto what the have. Somehow we have to have the leadership to come together to say, $30 billion a month, over $300 billion a year—it’s enough. Never again. We’re not going to pay that kind of money. A thousand dollars for every man, woman and child in America, every year to buy imported gasoline? If another nation came to us and said, "Americans, you’re lavish consumers, you pay us a tax." We’d want to go to war with them. And yet we do it willingly, we pay that tax. It’s going to Mexico and Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is the beneficiary, Nigeria, the Gulf. Why do we want to do that when we have our own technology and our own resources and we can do this at home?
We know where those resources are, we know what the technologies are. They’re all over the Department of Energy, everybody knows it, some how we have to pull together across political lines in this country and say, "Enough’s enough, we’re keeping that money in America and we’re building jobs and our own futures here."
Question: How can America wean itself off of foreign petrol?
Wesley Clark: Well, here’s the problem, that most of the imports are actually used for transportation because electrical energy mostly comes from coal or nuclear or hydro, so it’s not about imported... it’s not about, you know, directly about how you use energy for heating, it’s how you use energy for transportation. And we really only have one liquid fuel in America today and it’s gasoline. That’s what the cars are designed for. They can be designed for something else, you can have flexfuel vehicles. You have to have the infrastructure to put the ethanol in the tanks; you have to have the infrastructure to produce that much ethanol. We’re producing about maybe 12 billion gallons a year of ethanol right now. We’re using about 140 billion gallons of liquid fuel. And of that, about... well essentially all of it is imported if you consider that the oil we produce is for everything else; jet fuel and diesel and everything. So we’re using about nine million barrels a day of gasoline and that’s about what we’re importing of liquid petroleum.
We could replace that with biofuels and eventually replace liquid fuel with electric transportation. But that takes time and every month we lose more money abroad.
So we need an in-depth program, a portfolio approach, different... we can’t prescribe it, you could put trucks on compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas. You could put cars on greater proportions of ethanol. You can build hybrid cars, plug-in hybrid cars, or electric cars. All of that has to be done. And we have to move as quickly as we can to reduce our reliance on imported oil because that money that we’re saving is what’s going to create growth in America.
Recorded September 23, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
"We’ve been talking for over 30 years about energy independence," says General Clark. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is.
Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.
- Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
- "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
- In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.