Leading the Military toward a More Secure Energy Future

October 13th is the 235th Anniversary of the founding of the United States Navy.  So it was incredibly appropriate that today I had the opportunity to speak at two events focused on our military’s energy policy, because how the Navy and Marine Corps have harnessed energy has shaped our history since the birth of the Republic.  And how energy is used and produced in the United States will continue to affect both our national security, and the strategic and tactical capabilities of our forces, long into the future.

The military and the United States depend too much on fossil fuels.  But over the last two years the Department of the Navy has made significant strides to change that, and is moving toward the President’s vision of a new energy future powered by alternative energy.  The reasons for making this change are clear.  First and foremost, energy reform is about the lives of our troops.  For every 24 fuel convoys that go into Afghanistan, we lose one American, killed or wounded.  That is too high a price to pay for energy. 

We also saw the consequences of our dependence on fossil fuels when the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico this past April.  The subsequent spill not only released a torrent of oil into the Gulf, but also began a chain reaction of events that dramatically affected the livelihoods of millions of Americans living along the coast.  For months, I saw those impacts first-hand, as I worked on behalf of the President to create a plan that would allow for long-term ecosystem, health, and economic recovery on the Gulf Coast.

And we’ve seen that energy security is not just an American issue.  Just two days ago, I returned from a trip to Europe, and what was continually reinforced to me was that energy, or more appropriately denial of energy, can be used as a weapon – one just as effective as tanks and airplanes. 

Over the past year, the Navy and Marine Corps have worked towards ambitious goals, reducing our fossil fuel usage and investing in energy research and new projects so that by 2020, half of all the energy we use – afloat and ashore – will come from alternative sources.

In support of those goals, today Administrator Karen Mills of the Small Business Administration and I signed a memorandum of understanding to provide contract opportunities for small businesses on sustainable energy programs, pilots, and initiatives.  This agreement was accompanied by the launch of the SECNAV Green Biz Ops website, which is designed to be the single Department of the Navy source for listing alternative energy products and services, energy conservation projects, and energy technologies.

Through these initiatives, and through continued development and testing of biofuels and other alternative energies, the Navy and Marine Corps will continue to lead the military towards a better and more secure energy future. Godspeed.

Ray Mabus is the Secretary of the Navy
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