By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
March 31, 2010 - President Barack Obama today announced a series of energy initiatives, including plans to expand off-shore drilling, aimed in part at bolstering national security by weaning the United States off foreign oil.
From inside a hangar at Joint Base Andrews-Naval Air Facility Washington in Maryland, against a backdrop of warfighting equipment powered partly by alternative fuel sources, Obama told a military audience that he chose the venue to underscore environmentally conscious measures that military leaders are spearheading with a view toward long-term U.S. defense interests.
"This is particularly relevant to all of you who are serving in uniform. For decades, we've talked about the risks to our security created by our dependence on foreign oil," Obama said. "But that dependence has grown year after year after year."
In addition to reinforcing national security, steps announced today to open vast tracts to oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, along the Atlantic Coast and off the north coast of Alaska intend to reduce damage inflicted on the environment and push the United States into a position of leadership as the clean-energy industry takes on a greater share of the global economy.
Other initiatives to increase mileage standards and double the number of hybrid automobiles in the federal fleet while reducing the overall number of vehicles would help the country cut its reliance on foreign oil, Obama said. "Moving toward clean energy is about our security," he added.
The president implored a vast cross-section of American society -- from military personnel and government civilians, to private- and public-sector employees -- to consider how to make the United States less influenced by the agendas of oil-producing countries.
"It requires each of us ... to think about how could we be doing things better" he said, "how could we be doing things smarter so that we are no longer tethered to the whims of what happens somewhere in the Middle East or with other major oil-producing nations."
Obama delivered his remarks from a podium placed before two paragons of the Pentagon's environmental contribution: a modified F-18 fighter jet called the "Green Hornet" that the Navy hopes soon will be the first aircraft to break the sound barrier on eco-friendly fuel, and a light armored vehicle that Army and Marine Corps personnel are attempting to power with a mixture of biofuels.
"If there's any doubt about the leadership that our military is showing, you need only look to this F-18 fighter and the light armored vehicle behind me," Obama said. "The Air Force is also testing jet engines using biofuels and had the first successful biofuel-powered test flight just last week."
Obama praised Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, whose stated goal is to use 50-percent alternative fuel in all planes, vehicles, and ships by the next decade, and cited the Defense Department's $2.7 billion investment in fiscal 2010 to improve energy efficiency. "Now, the Pentagon isn't seeking these alternative fuels just to protect our environment; they are pursuing these homegrown energy sources to protect our national security," Obama said. "Our military leaders recognize the security imperative of increasing the use of alternative fuels, decreasing energy use, and reducing our reliance on imported oil."