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Clean Energy and National Security

The White House holds a Clean Energy Economy Forum on Energy Security. Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, provides a wrap-up and discusses the importance of clean energy for our national security.

Yesterday, we hosted a lively forum at the White House, which brought more than 130 stakeholders– civilian and uniformed officials from the Department of Defense (DOD) and our armed services, policy makers from the Department of Energy (DOE), think tanks, and business entrepreneurs – together for a discussion on the importance of clean energy for our national security.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, delivered the keynote address, and highlighted not just the great progress happening at the Department of the Navy in terms of greening its fleet, powering its jets with biofuels, and testing new, experimental technology in efficiency and alternative energy, but also underscored just how much further we have to go to ensure our energy independence.  Deputy Secretary Dan Poneman of the Department of Energy echoed these sentiments, and challenged the audience to think about ways in which our challenges might instead be viewed as opportunities for both improved mission capability, and an enhanced energy security.

And to build on the work already ongoing at DOD and DOE, Deputy Secretary Poneman announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)  signed between DOD and DOE – a commitment to work together, and foster partnerships inside and out of government to develop a clean energy economy that works to not only create jobs and reduce our dependence on oil, but to ensure our national security and the mission of our military.

Following their remarks, two panels composed of key officials from DOD and DOE and leaders from energy security think tanks provided a detailed overview of the military’s current initiatives on clean energy and energy policy priorities for the future.

It was easy to see how much work we have to do: According to officials from DOD, the military uses 300,000 barrels of oil per day. According to Deputy Secretary of Energy Poneman, that translates, with every $10 rise in the price of a barrel of oil, to more than $1.3 billion in additional costs the Department of Defense shells out for energy. Deputy Secretary Poneman also pointed out that a gallon of fuel can cost $40 or more in theater.

Our armed services understand that these are not just statistics – they are real costs and they affect our mission. That’s why each of the branches, DOD, and DOE are so focused on increasing efficiency, reducing waste, and increasing the security of our energy use.

Navy Secretary  Mabus summed it up well when he said in his opening remarks, “changing the way energy is used and produced in our country is the right thing to do.  It’s the right thing to do for our security, it’s the right thing to do for our economy, and it’s the right thing to do for our environment.” The President is committed to supporting and working with all branches of the armed service, all branches of the government and private industry as we together strive to build an energy future that is deserving of our men and women in uniform.

Heather Zichal is the Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change