The N.C. Clean Tech Summit’s keynote speaker, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, connected the country’s energy plan with its national security plan.
Clark said the top five long-term challenges for the U.S. are terrorism, financial stability, climate change, the rise of China and cybersecurity.
“What’s common in all of these problems is they take money, and we’re short on money,” he said. “Those of you entrepreneurs and those in the military understand this very well.”
Clark spoke about the threat of ISIS, and the need to attack its recruiting rhetoric rather than put troops on the ground.
“There’s no technology fix for this — it’s not going to be solved with a better bomb,” he said.
Clark said America’s greatest concern was the lack of a national security strategy. He said in the Cold War period, there was a clear enemy and a clear response. After 9/11, Clark said Americans gained a greater understanding of external threats to their security.
“What I learned when I taught economics at West Point was you can’t have guns and butter,” Clark said. “But in the first decade of this century, we believed we could have guns and butter and sugar. We got ourselves into a mess, and the question is: What is the strategy?”
Clark eventually tied things back to clean energy, saying he wants to see the national government create a clean energy infrastructure in the same way the country created the military industrial complex.
He wants the U.S. to take over the global energy market, displacing OPEC. To do this, Clark said they must incentivize energy production in the U.S., especially renewable energy sources.
Daniel Darovsky, an alumnus of Duke University, said innovation has increasingly come from the private sector to the military, rather than vice versa as it had been recently.
“I’m sure there’s nothing out there the military isn’t aware of, but these days it’s not just coming out from the military,” he said.
Clark spoke about his experience working with innovative energy start-ups, like one company that created separate solar panels to efficiently capture each wavelength of sunlight. Many start-ups at the conference were eager to show their innovations to Clark.
“Five years ago, the issue was trying to get people to buy into it and excited about it and we made the argument that it’s not just tree-huggers, that there is a military, national security aspect to it,” Darvosky said. “It becomes a broad enough thing that we get people to buy into it, but through their version that appeals to them.”
Harmony Bouley, a junior environmental science major, said climate change is a threat multiplier in the area of national security.
“Energy is really crucial to America’s security whether it’s financial security or national security in terms of where we send our troops and who we are threatened by,” she said.