Mayor Greg Ballard

News Editor Rob Burgess talks with former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard about his new book

When he was serving in the United States Marine Corps in the Gulf War, Greg Ballard was fighting to maintain the global economic order.

Now, almost three decades later, he hopes to be at the forefront of changing it.

At the start of the new year, the Republican former Indianapolis mayor published his new book, Less Oil or More Caskets: The National Security Argument for Moving Away From Oil, through IU Press.

Ballard spent 23 years in the Marines, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He served as the city's 48th mayor from 2008 to 2016. He is currently a Visiting Fellow for Civic Leadership and Mayoral Archives at the University of Indianapolis. Last month, he became the campaign chairman for Republican mayoral hopeful Jim Merritt.

Ballard stopped by the NUVO office last week to discuss his views on oil, national security, and how it feels to be a Republican arguing for alternative energy.

The following conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

Less Caskets Greg Ballard

NUVO: Why did you decide to focus on the national security argument for getting away from oil? I know you're a Marine Corps veteran, of course, but there's plenty of environmental reasons.

Ballard: I wanted people to realize there's not just an environmental argument, that there's a real national security argument associated with what we're doing. And, I would not have written this book unless I thought there was a solution on the horizon. I'm not just complaining. As a Marine you learn not to complain unless you have a better solution. You have to have the answer to it, and I think the answer is kind of staring us in the face right now. We just need to embrace it.

NUVO: You talk a little bit in the book about what would happen if we moved away from oil for transportation, as far as the Middle East's economy. What do you see replacing that?

Ballard: Clearly there would be social unrest, and they would have to diversify their economies. The Saudis realize this is coming, and they are diversifying.

Iran is going to have to figure out what to do, they've been sponsoring terrorism for a long time now. There are other countries that we'd have to help them figure it out. But, it's going to take time. If you started today, I think in 10 years we'd start making a difference. In 20 years, we could probably accomplish the mission.

But, I don't think it’s our troops' responsibility, I don't think it's the responsibility of U.S. taxpayers. I don't want social unrest, I don't want all that. But there's a lot of social unrest there now with oil.

NUVO: You talk a little bit about wars and conflicts we've had over the last 50 years that were maybe directly affected by this oil situation. But, what is our military responsibility to the Middle East absent oil?

Ballard: The only reason we're in there is of oil. The military gets this. The senior levels of the military understands this completely, but they are subservient, as they should be, to the civilian government. But, they know what's happening. There's just no question that they know what's happening.

NUVO: Do you get resistance from other Republicans to these ideas?

Ballard: We have to make oil what I call an industrial lubricant, not a critical strategic commodity for the world. Seventy percent of the world's oil is used for transportation. This is clear. And now we have a transportation alternative, we should be sprinting towards that alternative.

A lot of people say, “We’re producing so much oil right now, there’s no reason change." But that’s not the point. It doesn't take away the strategic leverage that Russia and OPEC have over the rest of the world; and producing our own oil doesn't bring our troops home from the Middle East and doesn't stop us from spending $81 billion to protect the flow of oil for the entire world.

We will continue to do that because it's part of our international security missions. We will continue to do that no matter whether we produce our own oil or not. And, like I say, it doesn't defund terrorism. It doesn't really do what we want it to do.

The assumption is we don't need to deal with these countries anymore. But, we do. We do, and we will continue to do that as long as oil is absolutely critical to the economies of most of the world, and that's what has to change.


Rob Burgess, News Editor at NUVO, can be reached by email at, by phone at 317-808-4614 or on Twitter @robaburg.

News Editor

My background is that I'm the fourth generation in my family to work as a journalist. I also have a degree from Indiana University in Elementary Education. My wife, Ash, and I have two children, Harper, 4, and Emerald, 1.

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