Clean Energy a Win for America’s Armed Forces, Veterans
September 2, 2019

By: Kelly Ayotte, Real Clear Politics

September 1st, 2019

This year, approximately 200,000 men and women will transition from active service in America’s armed forces to civilian life. While our nation owes each of them a debt of gratitude we can never fully repay, we must remain vigilant in the pursuit of policies that advance the next phase of their career and enhance the prosperity and security of the nation they served to defend. Few areas of public policy are more suited to accomplish these objectives than advancing the production of clean energy. And with Labor Day and National Clean Energy Week happening in September, there’s no better time to highlight these employment opportunities.

As a former member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, and chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, I can tell you that the U.S. military is the largest consumer of energy resources in the world. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines of all ranks are responsible for the operation of the energy systems that power the mission at home and abroad. This technical experience, combined with their leadership capacity and other critical skills, make veterans ideal for careers in the energy sector.

The 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER) released this year, found that veterans hold 9% of all U.S. energy jobs today —a figure outpacing the national percentage of veterans in the workforce (6%). In addition to employment data, USEER also found that more than 75% of energy companies experience difficulty in hiring qualified employees. America’s veterans are uniquely situated to help fill this employment gap. However, as I recently discussed at the Atlantic Council’s Veterans Advanced Energy Summit, it must remain the focus of the federal government to bolster energy growth. Not only is it a job creator, but it will also transform the operability of our armed forces.

Further, the connection between clean energy, climate change and America’s security could not be clearer. A 2019 report from President Trump’s Department of Defense, statements by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and the pleas of retired U.S. military officers have all drawn attention to the consequences of climate change, including the destabilizing effects of storms, droughts, and floods on vital defense infrastructure at home and abroad.

Domestically, the effects of climate change present a challenge for disaster-response capabilities and installations across every branch of our military. Internationally, climate change may exacerbate humanitarian disasters, contribute to political violence and undermine weak governments. To take this a step further, our ability to acquire, store and transport energy greatly impacts where we deploy personnel and assets, why we are there, what resources we have and how we use them.

Streamlining clean energy job opportunities and production, improving storage capacity and addressing climate change are major challenges that no one party can solve alone. That’s why I’m encouraged that more Republicans than ever before are engaged in offering concrete energy policy solutions in Congress. For example, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has announced a New Manhattan Project for Clean Energy. The five-year, 10-point proposal calls for harnessing the power of U.S. research and technology to put our country and the world firmly on a path toward cleaner, cheaper energy. It also would go a long way toward improving battery storage capacity, bolstering job creation and advancing carbon capture and electric vehicle technologies.

Sens. John Cornyn, R-Tex., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., have also introduced the Launching Energy Advancement and Development Through Innovations for Natural Gas Act, which will drive innovation in carbon capture technologies and make cleaner-burning natural gas even more efficient.

The role of energy sources as they affect national security and provide good-paying jobs stands at the forefront of a national debate that will be featured prominently during National Clean Energy Week later this month (Sept. 23-27). Constructing a more modern energy system that makes use of our plentiful renewable resources, American ingenuity and the power of the free market is key to both our job security at home and national security abroad. The federal government can continue to take the lead in promoting clean energy development. America’s men and women in uniform and their brothers and sisters who are returning heroes deserve nothing less.