Fred Smith, FedEx CEO and co-chair of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), is urging President Trump to support the federal fuel economy emissions targets signed during the last days of the Obama administration.  

A former military man as well, he along with several retired generals and admirals say consuming less petroleum supports SAFE’s mission to reduce America’s dependence on oil and ties to geopolitics.

“Our group is unique in looking at this problem from the perspective of national security,” Smith said. “If we can help solve the environmental risks, so much the better.”

SAFE spokeswoman Leslie Hayward said the group is having a constructive dialogue with the Trump administration. Results from the meetings were not disclosed.

Smith brings a lot of experience to the issue. A Vietnam war Marine platoon leader and forward air controller, he currently heads the world’s largest air cargo fleet. He’s considered an expert on the how global politics and security tensions impact fuel costs and supply, a reputation supported by his role as co-chair of SAFE.

During his campaign, Trump mentioned cutting oil imports as a key ingredient to making America independent of foreign economic powers. He was especially concerned about the OPEC cartel and nations who could be hostile to U.S. interests. Since the election, Trump hasn’t discussed the oil import topic.

White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said the administration had no immediate comment on SAFE’s viewpoint. Myron Ebell, the former head of Trump’s environmental transition team, did have something to say about it.

Ebell thinks that hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has made SAFE’s agenda irrelevant. Fracking is considered to be the main reason domestic oil and gas supplies have increased dramatically in the past decade, reducing oil imports.

“History has passed them by,” Ebell said.

That argument may be a shallow one, however, as petroleum is a global fungible commodity subject to world market prices and political stability, or lack thereof. In simple terms: that means even if the U.S. were 100-percent domestically supplied, it pays a world market price for oil. That makes it still dependent upon what happens in the Middle East and other hot spots around the world.

This is one of the other core reasons why Americans have seen it as patriotic to electrify – electricity is truly domestically sourced, and its pricing is not dependent upon world markets.

And, as things stand, oil reportedly makes up about 93 percent of the energy used by the U.S. transportation sector. Smith hopes to see that share slashed to 50 percent by 2040. He’s been supporting batteries for passenger cars and natural gas for freight haulers, along with bringing in lightweight, fuel-efficient and alternative-fuel vehicles in the FedEx fleet.

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Last year, SAFE called on the federal government to adopt a national standard overriding state policies on autonomous vehicles, along with flexibility on how targets will be met. The group offered to share its perspectives on development of the technology and its implications for energy consumption, national security, safety, and mobility benefits.

Retired General James Conway, who co-chairs SAFE with Smith, is concerned about oil imports from the Middle East. The U.S. still has about 100,000 troops on constant alert to defend its access to Middle East oil, he said.

“We’ve seen low oil prices in the last two or three years, and people are buying sport utility vehicles at a record pace,” Conway said. “In a year or two, when prices go back up, the U.S. will be more dependent on foreign oil than ever.”

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