Wesley Clark: Make Solar Energy a Military Mission
In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for the U.S. to “double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising.”
Solar, wind and other clean energy technologies played a central role in the president’s address because of their importance to American economic competitiveness and prosperity - and rightly so, the sector is already providing a welcome spot of job and market growth with the opportunity for much more with further U.S. commitment. But while all eyes are on the economy, let’s not forget that those same clean energy investments are mission critical to another top national priority: to strengthen American energy security.
Consider these facts regarding the U.S. Department of Defense:
· U.S. military operations represent the largest consumer of all forms of energy globally.
· Our troops in Afghanistan pay the equivalent of $400 per gallon of fossil fuel when security, transportation and mortality costs are tallied up, with the largest expense being battlefield electricity generation.
· Here at home, virtually all military bases including Fort Irwin here in the California desert are shifting to solar energy in order to develop a more secure, on-site power supply that will increase resiliency and reduce dependence upon imports of fossil fuels from hostile countries.
In the past, the Defense Department has played a remarkably consistent role in commercializing new technologies that provide tremendous social benefits within the larger civilian realm of society. The Internet, created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1969, is perhaps the most famous and transformative of the Department of Defense’s contributions to consumer markets.
Thanks to support from the Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Energy, solar energy is achieving cost milestones that were unthinkable just a short time ago: a 75% price drop over the last three years. But there is a lot of competition in this market, fueled by major government support in places such as Europe and China. With Europe’s consistent pro-solar policies - long-term above-market payments for solar energy - as well as force-fed Chinese procurement - some U.S. manufacturing firms have been driven out of the business. Solyndra is one, and there are others that have followed