Michael Wenye Li/ Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard speaks at an event hosted by Cornell Republicans and Cornell Political Union.

September 21, 2017

Former Mayor Greg Ballard Examines Impact of Oil on National Security

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Former mayor of Indianapolis Greg Ballard detailed the role oil plays in international politics and introduced a new hybrid technology that could replace it at a talk hosted by Cornell Republicans and Cornell Political Union on Tuesday.

Ballard, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for 23 years, attributed the sending of American troops overseas to the need for maintaining the global oil market.

“When I went to the Gulf War in 1991 to maintain the global [order] of oil, [oil] was critical to our ordinary life, I don’t think anybody questions that,” Ballard said.

He added that the technology for developing and using other energy sources at that time was not mature enough to fulfill the country’s need for oil, and did not “overcome our need in the Middle East.”

The United States’s military expeditions also aim to secure its allies’ access to oil, Ballard added.

“Americans spend 70 billion dollars every year to protect the oil infrastructure [and] to ensure that [our] trading partners have what they need so that they can maintain their economies,” Ballard said.

Ballard also outlined the the key role oil plays in international politics, particularly in the country’s interactions with China and Iran.

“One problem that is least talked about is the relationship between China and Iran,” he said. “China gets oil from Iran and sell them nuclear technology in exchange. That sounds like a problem to me.”

The United States placed a sanction on Iran in 1979, which primarily targeted the investments within Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemistry industries. Since that sanction, Iran has been selling their oil mostly to Asian countries such as China, which has also become Iran’s biggest trading partner, Ballard said.

The Marine Corps veteran described how the international oil business has become a hotbed for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Even after the sanction took place, most of the Iranian oil was still sold to other places in Asia.

“Everybody knows that ISIS got the vast majority of revenue from oil business,” Ballard said. “Who funds the terrorists? We all do. The world funds the terrorists.”

However, there are ways to solve and avoid all these problems, Ballard said. One such solution is to replace oil with other energy sources, especially in transportation.

“Today the use of oil [that is] most relevant to our life is for transportation energy — how we move people and goods,” Ballard said. “But this is where it’s changing.”

As mayor of Indianapolis, Ballard promoted hybrid electric cars that run on electricity for the first 30 to 50 miles before converting to a gasoline engine, currently rare in the US. Drivers can easily recharge their cars by plugging them into recharge stations.

“This technology is here right now. If just half of our cars in America got 50 miles on electricity, we literally could cut our oil use in half tomorrow,” Ballard said. “And it sends a signal to the rest of the world, too.”

Automobile manufacturers are researching and developing hybrid cars, and many countries in the world are experimenting the new technology as well, Ballard said.

“England and France have both been getting ready to turn to use hybrid cars … China very recently has come up with plans to totally get rid of internal combustion engines by 2050,” Ballard said. “People are moving towards this.”

The benefits of a weaker dependence on foreign oil also include more political leverage for the United States on countries like Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, which make the majority of their revenue from oil business, according to Ballard.

In discovering new solutions to reduce oil dependency, Ballard stressed his hope that technologies like hybrid electric cars will save soldiers from risking their lives on foreign battlefields for oil resources.

“I’m tired of going to these funerals,” he said. “But we now have the technology, and we can change all of this.”