Former Mayor Ballard discusses national security and energy policy at Q&A

After writing and publishing his book, “Less Oil or More Caskets: The National Security Argument for Moving Away From Oil”, former Indianapolis Mayor and visiting fellow Greg Ballard came to the University of Indianapolis for a question and answer session held in UIndy Hall B on Feb. 11.

Former mayor Greg Ballard answers a question from Laura Merrifield Wilson during a Q&A session about his book covering national security on Feb 11. Photo by Tony Reeves

As a visiting fellow, an honorary member of UIndy, Ballard has an office located on the second floor of Krannert Memorial Library and has spoken on campus multiple times before. Previously he spoke about a clean energy plan, and the impact of fossil fuels on the military, which were both similar topics to his newly released book.

“I am comfortable here, actually,” Ballard said. “I like UIndy quite a bit. I like the president and the students. It’s just a comfortable setting. I would like to think I do things for UIndy too.”

When invited by professors, Ballard attends classes to help teach, or speak to them. Ballard said the university has been good to him, and he hopes to continue his relationship with President Robert Manuel and the students.

In his book, Ballard advocates moving towards electric vehicles or an alternative fuel for transportation. According to his book, 70 percent of the oil in the world is used for transportation. The oil used for transportation is protected by the United States troops, making it a national security issue for the U.S.

“If we are ever to make a difference… [we need to be] looking at transportation,” Ballard said. “It is all strictly national security. There is nothing in my book about the environment or climate or anything like that.”

Assistant Professor of Political Science Laura Merrifield Wilson began the Q&A by asking why he chose to write this book now. According to Ballard, he began writing his book on Jan. 4, 2016, in Santa Barbara, Calif. He said he wrote the book because he knew that there were feasible and alternative energy sources.

“There are a lot of people,” Ballard said, “That don’t know we spent $5 trillion over the last 40 years and lost 6,000 lives just to make sure the oil comes out.”

Ballard said he would like his book to shed light on things that people may not know. For example, in 2017, without the cost of wars, $81 billion was spent on protecting the oil alone, according to Ballard.

“I don’t think the average person even has a clue about the sort of thing,” Ballard said. “About how much money we spend, and how we protect the oil for the rest of the world.”

Freshman elementary education major Paige Bateman attended the event and agreed with Ballard’s point of view on the matter, she also did not realize how involved the military was in protecting oil, not just for the U.S., but also for countries like China and Iran.

The less money someone has to spend on a car and on oil, the less of a demand there will be for the transportation of oil which is what the U.S. troops are protecting overseas.

“I realized, after that, electric cars were so useful,” Bateman said. “It costs overall less than a car.”

She said she believed that Ballard’s point of view was interesting and she enjoyed that he focused on a lesser use of oil and fossil fuels from a national security point of view, and not on an environmentalist point of view.

One question, brought up by Professor of History and Director of Institute of Civil Leadership/Mayoral Archives Edward Frantz, was what everyday people could do about consuming oil and energy. Ballard said that people should look towards electric cars as an alternative to traditional transportation methods that consume more oil. He also said people should ask their representatives about how they feel about 40 plus years of protecting oil in the Middle East.

Graphic by Tony Reeves and Ethan Gerling

“In 10 more years, 10 to 12-year-old kids will be in the Middle East,” Ballard said. “I know this because I could have made this statement 40 years ago when troops first went there.”

According to Ballard, being aware of troop involvement might change their representative’s perspective on the dependency of oil in the U.S.

“Ever since the [British] moved out in the early 1970s, it has been our mission to do that,” Ballard said. “We also have had to [protect oil] for the world because oil is a critical, strategic commodity for almost every nation. But now we have an alternative … we need to be moving toward that.”

Ballard said he believes that electric cars are an important use of alternative energy, and will limit the need for oil overall. He said his electric car costs him a dollar to drive 100 miles, and that the average car cost $15 to drive the same distance.

Freshman elementary education major, Leilani McMichel, who attended the event, also agreed that going with less oil based cars would be better for the environment, and also would eliminate the need for troops overseas protecting that oil. McMichel said that she did not know about the topic at all, but enjoyed learning about it.

Ballard has focused on alternative energy before, including during his tenure as mayor and he has even ran an initiative with UIndy students in an effort to create one of Indiana’s first clean energy plans, in 2017, called the Energy Plan Community Conversation. He used these plans to attempt to educate legislators over clean energy.

“It was a one-year project,” Ballard said. “Our intent was to tell state office holders and regulators that this is what we think [about energy]. We gave a copy to every legislator in the state house. The interns also presented it here at UIndy.”

Although the interns created the plan, state legislators never adopted it. Nonetheless, Ballard said the initiative was fun and the students were great with their involvement with the plan.

“Not all of the students knew that much about energy. The great thing about that is that not everybody knew coming in. They were just kind of interested about it… We did a lot of education early on, and then [the students] put their touch to it. The communications here at UIndy and the marketing folks kind of put the package together… It was a great night,” Ballard said. “I was writing that energy plan with the students [and] it was really a lot of fun and I think that it was for them too.”