As a teenager in Southington, I never paid much attention to the electric vehicle industry. I just wanted a car, any car, to drive my friends around in, and as long as my summer job at Lake Compounce kept gas in the tank, I did not care about the environmental or economic impact caused by our frequent drives to Hartford or the beach.
However, my perspective changed drastically on my first day of duty for the U.S. Coast Guard in the Arabian Gulf. After a thirty-hour trip jumping from one ship or helicopter to another, I finally arrived on the Coast Guard patrol boat that was waiting for me in the disputed maritime boundary between Iraq and Iran. There were dozens of other American and coalition naval vessels surrounding us in every direction, and we were all there for one purpose: to protect Iraq’s only functioning offshore oil terminal and one of our main sources of American power both domestically and militarily.
The next year of duty stood as a sobering reminder that our mission was shaped by the world’s heavy dependence on foreign oil, and our operational capabilities were hampered by our own dependency. I therefore stopped seeing renewable energy as a pipe dream for environmentalists and instead saw it for what it actually is: a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the United States to lead the world in clean energy advancement while also building our economy and keeping our troops out of harm’s way.
Our national security, after all, relies on America’s ability and drive to reduce our single-source dependence on oil. Pursuing renewable energy, especially electric vehicles, at home keeps money from going abroad to states and groups who do not share our values as well as paves the way for global American leadership in mitigating the effects of climate change and boosting the economy with clean energy jobs.
Connecticut has already put several policies in place to boost homegrown energy and encourage alternative fuel vehicles–but emissions have still risen over the last two years, and electric vehicles make up only one percent of the cars on the state’s roads. Rather than making it easier to shift to electric vehicles, our state continues to enforce an arbitrary franchising law that makes it illegal for Tesla, one of the nation’s leading electric vehicle manufacturers, to sell their cars in the state.
CT HB7097 was recently introduced to allow all electric vehicle manufacturers without a franchisee to sell in-state, and I urge members of the General Assembly to vote in its favor. Connecticut needs to double the number of electric vehicles on the road each year until 2025 in order to meet its zero-emission vehicle commitment, but this can’t happen with the state house keeping commercially viable vehicles out of the marketplace.
More importantly, however, is the fact that this provides Connecticut with a great opportunity to lead the nation in encouraging more renewable energy technologies in everyday life. The long-term health of the state’s economy and the long-term safety of its citizens who volunteer to wear the uniform depend on our ability to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Based off my experiences in the Armed Forces, I strongly believe that by passing HB7097, our state will make the essential next step towards demonstrating American leadership worldwide, increasing our nation’s overall security, and protecting our troops abroad.
Former Lieutenant Brendan McKinnon served ten years in the United States Coast Guard and is a Truman National Security Project Defense Council Member. Views expressed are his own.
This article was originally printed in the Southington Observer.