During my tenure as the 75th United States Secretary of the Navy, we led the way at the Pentagon in efforts to reduce the American military’s carbon footprint. We moved aggressively to get the Navy off fossil fuels, exceeding President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama Obama backs Trudeau in Canadian election Former Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal MORE’s goal of transitioning 50 percent of our energy consumption onshore to clean sources (1.2 gigawatts, which represents two-thirds of our energy needs, enough to power the city of Orlando, Fla.) — and we did it five years ahead of schedule and saved $400 million in the process.
Despite attempts by the Trump administration to roll back this progress, renewable, clean energy still makes up a majority of the Navy’s consumption portfolio. Yet, the U.S. military is still the largest energy consumer in the world, and it’s undeniable that more progress must be made by civilian and military leaders in the fight to protect our environment.
In that effort, both veterans and Congress have a key role to play. Supporting President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda is the best way to create a modern, resilient infrastructure future for the country while creating jobs for those who have served.
That’s the goal of the new Veterans Energy Project: to advocate for legislation that helps combat climate change and empowers former service members to use their skills and expertise in the new climate economy.
Already, veterans across the country are building successful businesses and careers in the new climate economy. Their work in post-service, climate-focused careers helps combat drought, famine, and natural disasters that fuel conflict around the world. Even in life after active duty, these veterans help secure a safer future — and a stronger economy — for everyone.
Congress has a choice to make: break our addiction to fossil fuels or refuse to act and let environmentally degrading carbon pollution continue. As former Saudi Oil Minister Zaki Yamani famously said, “The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.” It ended because we invented something better. This is exactly where we are today with the Oil Age.
President BidenJoe BidenTrump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race On The Money: Democrats get to the hard part Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate MORE’s plan is that better investment. It rebuilds American manufacturing and accelerates the progress we made at the Pentagon, which has served as a blueprint for so many veterans starting their own small business careers.
Supporting the veterans and veteran-owned businesses that build and deploy American-made clean energy and climate solutions technology is a smart investment. It just makes strategic sense to team with veterans to give our manufacturing base the global competitive edge it needs. Veterans know from personal experience that every investment we make in clean energy not only reduces emissions, but also makes our military forces more self-sustaining and secure.
America’s veterans lead the way in building and deploying American-made clean energy technology in part because transferable technical and leadership skills are honed in service, resulting in them making up a larger percentage of the renewable energy sector than the U.S. workforce overall.
From building energy-efficient housing to investing in advanced battery manufacturing and carbon-negative construction materials, the President’s plan would double down on veteran-heavy industries while fighting planet-warming emissions. The plan would build the backbone of a new renewable and resilient economy and secure our place as the world leader in this booming economic sector.
Last week, President Biden invited 40 world leaders to the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. The gathering was intended to “galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis.” What better way to spur action than for Congress to begin work at home to create hundreds of thousands of good-paying, clean energy jobs?
The American Jobs Act would secure a bright future for those who made the military-to-civilian transition by investing in inclusive, equitable economic growth and jobs in the communities that need them the most, guaranteeing an economic recovery that works for everyone. Showcasing that investment for global allies demonstrates the strength of America’s commitment to our bold and enterprising thinking about tackling climate change.
Addressing our urgent climate challenge, investing in our economy, and protecting our national security are all interrelated. People from every community across the country send their sons and daughters to serve to protect our nation, and the Build Back Better agenda invests in them.
I know truly transformational moments like this don’t come along often. Today, we have an opportunity to address the climate crisis while improving our national security and economic strength at the same time. The Veterans Energy Project is ready to make sure it gets done.
Ray Mabus served as the 75th United States Secretary of the Navy from 2009 to 2017, the longest tenure as leader of the Navy and Marine Corps since World War I. He also served as Mississippi governor and as United States Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.