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Letter: Energy security a vital element in the defense of United States

This Independence Day weekend reminds us to honor the men and women in our armed services who dedicate their lives to protecting our country. As Americans take the time to celebrate our nation’s independence with friends and family, the U.S. military is at the ready to serve and protect our great nation.

As a way to increase energy security and reduce energy costs, the Department of Defense has enacted a number of initiatives aimed at increasing energy efficiency, deploying more sources of renewable energy and assuming a leadership role in clean energy technology innovation.

As a result, military base clean energy efforts are accelerating. DOD energy efficiency has increased more rapidly since 2010, renewable energy consumption and deployment has grown, and the number of new projects has increased significantly. DOD has a $4 billion base energy bill and in today’s tight budgetary environment, any dollar saved on energy can be invested in other aspects of the military’s mission.

According to the Power Surge report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, overall facility energy intensity (energy consumed per gross square foot of building space) has dropped 17.7 percent since 2003, and momentum is accelerating: Energy intensity fell by 4.4 percent in fiscal year 2012.

In North Dakota, Minot Air Force Base may be one of the most energy efficient of all U.S. air bases. According to base energy officials, Minot AFB reduced their base-wide energy intensity by 32.8 percent in 2013, which is higher than the DOD goal of 30 percent by 2015.

One-quarter of the square footage of Minot Air Force Base buildings have ground source heat pumps and other efficiency measures in place. And all of the missile site locations now have ground source heating, amounting to a projected savings of 69,000 gallons of fuel oil/year, which amounts $276,000 saved annually.

All told, these common-sense efforts are producing tangible results that are not only strengthening energy security and mission assurance for the military but are also saving the DOD and U.S. taxpayers money.

To increase our national and energy security, prudent clean energy initiatives must be prioritized, both within the Department of Defense and across the country. Energy use is predicted to increase 35 percent globally over the next 25 years, which requires action now to conserve energy and diversify our energy mix.

I salute the Department of Defense for their efforts to strengthen energy security for our U.S. military and increase national security for the American people.

Olek, of Fargo, is a Vietnam veteran and retired North Dakota Air National Guard member.