Since retiring from a sparkling 40-year military career the Associated Press says combined "impeccable military credentials with an ambassador's polish," Gen. Jim Jones has served as president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy. This job requires, according to the organization's website, ensuring that "America's energy supply is adequate, affordable, and secure while protecting the environment."
Having heard the chatter over whether Obama's choice of Jones, along with Hillary at State and Gates at Defense, has raised the eyebrows of his liberal base (the best response comes from Peter Beinart, who writes in Time, "It's precisely because Obama intends to pursue a genuinely progressive foreign policy that he's surrounding himself with people who can guard his right flank at home") we now turn to Jones' opinions on energy and the environment. It could be Jones, after all, to utter the final words before Obama decrees on a major conflagration, military or otherwise.
In a speech Jones gave in June 2007, launching the Chamber's new energy initiative, he said he first became aware of the importance of energy in 1973, "while sitting in a Volkswagen in Springfield, Virginia at 4 o'clock in the morning." He was waiting in a gas line on his way to Quantico, Virginia. "Thirty-three years later," he recalled, "as Commander of NATO, I worried early in the mornings about how to protect energy facilities and supply chain routes as far away as Africa, the Persian Gulf, and Caspian Sea."
Even George W. Bush understood that energy and security are inexorably linked, and that dependence on foreign oil makes Americans less safe every day. Where the next top National Security Advisor stands on energy, therefore, becomes a central issue in this debate. In a recent interview with Big Think and Roll Call, Jones outlined his vision for America's energy future, making several astute and innocuous recommendations -- diversify our supply base, modernize our infrastructure, increase research and development for clean coal technology, and provide a streamlined regulatory framework for energy investments.
But Jones, who sits on the board of directors of Chevron and Boeing, also said the it was time to "consider an end to the moratorium on the production of oil and gas off our lands and off our shores," and that "the nuclear sector has to be reenergized and reinvented." He further lamented, "we haven't built a nuclear power plant in this country in over 30 years." It is these controversial energy recommendations that should raise liberal eyebrows more than his stint last year working for Condoleezza Rice to improve Palestinian security forces.
As his biography on the Institute for 21st Century Energy website recounts, Jones "brings passion and commitment for finding practical solutions to the energy problems facing the nation, and he believes that the Energy Institute will play a key role in influencing our national and international energy policy in a nonpartisan manner." Following the disastrous experience of having a U.S. military in the pocket of Halliburton and Big Oil, we hope the pragmatism and polish Gen. Jones will likely bring to the NSA is not offset by corporate allegiances more tied to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce than to the health and security of the American people.