But this is just the latest example of how instability in the Middle East plays havoc with oil - and by extension, gasoline - prices. We saw similar impacts on domestic gas prices arising from the recent turmoil in Egypt and Libya.

In other words, the high prices we pay at the pump reflect conditions a half a world away, and which will continually evade our control unless we maintain our efforts to broker peace and stability in the region. While the U.S. cannot be the world’s police, diplomacy has direct economic effects, and we must view our engagement as honest brokers within the region as an investment in the economic well being of American citizens.
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As we continue to engage diplomatically in the Middle East, we must simultaneously disengage from our increasingly fragile relationship with petroleum as a primary source of energy. We have taken important steps in encouraging the development of alternative sources of electricity and hybrid vehicles, but one of the most significant commitments in our nation has come from the United States Navy.

As President Obama announced in his State of the Union Address, the Navy and Marine Corps have set a goal of producing fifty percent of their energy needs from alternative sources by 2020, with a target of obtaining one Gigawatt of new, renewable energy at Naval installations across the country. The services will lead the nation in the wide-scale deployment of alternative energy installations, establishing not only our national commitment to non-petroleum energy sources, but also demonstrating the feasibility of applying alternative strategies to varied energy demands.

In addition, the Department of the Navy has joined with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy in an effort to develop direct replacement biofuels that meet military specifications, at a price that is competitive with petroleum-based fuels. The Department of Defense is the world’s largest consumer of oil. As important as gas prices are to American drivers, small increases in oil prices have tremendous effect on military budgets, with the Navy estimating that a one-dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil represents an additional expense of $30 million annually.

The Navy, USDA, and DOE will directly invest up to $510 million to the project; funds from the private sector will be matched one-to-one, bringing the total capital available to over $1 billion. The services envision running ships and aircraft on a 50-50 blend of biofuels and traditional fossil fuels. The Navy has already demonstrated the concept with several aircraft, including an F-18 fighter, an MV-22 Osprey, and a T-45 training jet.

The Navy’s commitment reflects its understanding that for our armed services, as for our nation’s drivers and our population at large, America’s dependence on foreign oil represents both economic and foreign policy consequences, which are only getting worse with time.

America’s vision for our energy future must extend beyond the next gas pump, and beyond next summer. Only by addressing the fundamentals of our energy policy, including international relations, diplomacy, research, and a commitment to exploring broad changes in our deployment of energy sources, can we ensure that our nation will find shelter from the unpredictable winds of the petroleum economy.

Representative Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) serves on the Committee on Armed Services, as well as the Committee on Natural Resources.