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Public Statements

Letter to Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy

Today, Mark Udall led 17 of his Senate colleagues in commending Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus's commitment to developing and employing renewable energy technologies, which is key to maintaining America's strategic advantage in the world. Udall strongly agrees with senior defense leaders that saving energy saves American lives, and he is proud to support smart military investments that help to protect our troops, cut our country's dependence on foreign oil, and create new jobs at home as these technologies make their way to civilian markets.

"Your commitment to pushing the advancement of biofuels, tactical photovoltaic arrays, high efficiency generators, improved batteries, and other new energy technologies takes fuel convoys off of dangerous roads and lightens the load on troops in the field," Udall wrote in the letter.

Innovations ranging from radar and jet engines to GPS, flat-screen televisions and the Internet were all created by the military before becoming affordably produced for mass consumption. The Navy in particular has led the military in delivering alternative energy and fuel-saving technologies such as biofuels, tactical solar arrays and state-of-the-art batteries to sailors and Marines in the field, saving lives by reducing the number of convoys and limiting the need for resupply missions in combat zones. Udall strongly supports the Navy's efforts, some of which have come under fire recently, touting the positive implications the service's investments have on protecting American lives, increasing the fighting capabilities of our warfighters and developing affordable energy sources.

"Our sailors and Marines are equipped with cutting-edge technology, but much of our fighting capability continues to be constrained by a reliance on fossil fuels and decades-old power generation systems. That dependence has very real human and economic costs, and we share your belief that the next generation of energy technology must be developed without delay," the 18 senators wrote. "While we recognize that some energy technologies require a significant capital investment in the early stages of development, those costs pale in comparison to the price we currently pay for fossil fuels in the combat theater."

Udall has been a vocal advocate for shoring up both our country's energy and national security. Last year, Udall introduced the Department of Defense Energy Security Act of 2011 with Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to help the military save money and lives by reducing its reliance on foreign fossil fuel, and he fought to include key provisions of it in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.

Below is the text of the letter:

Dear Secretary Mabus:

We write to express our strong support for the Navy's continuing efforts to research, develop, and field advanced alternative energy technologies. For over 200 years, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of the Navy have been on the leading edge of innovation and technological achievement, and your efforts to reduce the Navy's dependence on fossil fuels and outdated energy technologies keep in the finest traditions of military scientific leadership.

As has been the case throughout history, lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to a wide range of technological advancements. Improvements in armor and vehicle design provide our troops with far better blast protection than was available even a few years ago. Advanced communication technology allows every Marine to carry a radio, dramatically improving situational awareness and unit capabilities. Those essential advancements and countless others were made possible by robust wartime investments in Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation (RDT&E) that could have been spent on procurement of previous-generation equipment for the Sailors and Marines engaged in the fight; however, you wisely chose to invest in the future and to improve the lethality, flexibility, and capability of our warfighters.

Our Sailors and Marines are equipped with cutting-edge technology, but much of our fighting capability continues to be constrained by a reliance on fossil fuels and decades-old power generation systems. That dependence has very real human and economic costs, and we share your belief that the next generation of energy technology must be developed without delay.

While we recognize that some energy technologies require a significant capital investment in the early stages of development, those costs pale in comparison to the price we currently pay for fossil fuels in the combat theater.

Furthermore, the initial costs paid for emerging technologies necessarily shrink over time as production increases. Global Positioning System receivers, flat panel televisions, and countless other products were originally developed by the military but quickly became affordable and commonly seen as they found their way into civilian markets. There can be no doubt that drop-in biofuels, portable solar technology, improved batteries, and many other alternative energy products currently being tested by the military have the potential to expand into wider use, saving money, protecting troops, and creating jobs in the process.

In addition, military dependence on fossil fuels puts our men and women in uniform at unnecessary risk on the battlefield. Vulnerable fuel convoys traveling over predictable routes have been a security concern since the advent of mechanized warfare. Despite devoting significant resources to protecting those trucks and their precious cargo, approximately one out of every 50 convoys results in an American casualty, and at least 3,300 U.S. troops have been wounded or killed in attacks on fuel convoys since 2001.

As you are well aware, alternative energy technologies have already paid dividends for our Sailors and Marines. Recently developed tactical photovoltaic blankets are currently used by Marines in Afghanistan and significantly reduce the need for spare batteries; one Marine platoon reported that the solar blankets allowed them to shed 700 lbs. in battery weight-allowing them to carry more ammunition and food. That, in turn, reduces the requirement for resupply, saving fuel, placing fewer troops at risk, and freeing assets to engage in other critical missions.

It is not only within your purview to research and develop technologies that could eventually take more fuel trucks off the road and increase the capabilities of our fighting forces-it is your obligation to do so. We applaud your unmatched commitment to fulfilling that obligation.

The fiscal costs related to the DOD's dependence on fossil fuels are staggering as well. Volatility in oil markets and the unpredictable nature of geopolitical events leads to enormous fluctuations in the price of fuel. According to the DOD Comptroller, the Department of Defense's annual fuel bill increases by $130 million for every dollar increase in the cost per barrel of oil; the Navy's share of that total is $31 million. Given that our military consumes approximately 300,000 barrels of oil and over $30 million per day at today's prices, research into alternatives is a strategic and economic necessity.

The costs mentioned above do not include the price we pay to defend shipping lanes, transport fuels, replace damaged equipment, or care for troops wounded in attacks on supply convoys. Every day that we rely on fossil fuels to power our military places an enormous burden on the defense budget and on the troops who must defend our access to those energy sources.

Your commitment to pushing the advancement of biofuels, tactical photovoltaic arrays, high efficiency generators, improved batteries, and other new energy technologies takes fuel convoys off of dangerous roads and lightens the load on troops in the field. In doing so, you are clearly demonstrating that saving energy saves lives, and that is an investment that we are proud to support.

Thank you for you continued service to our country and to the men and women of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.

Mark Udall
U.S. Senator

Jeanne Shaheen
U.S. Senator

Mark Begich
U.S. Senator

Sheldon Whitehouse
U.S. Senator

Jeff Bingaman
U.S. Senator

Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator

Frank R. Lautenberg
U.S. Senator

Patrick J. Leahy
U.S. Senator

Patty Murray
U.S. Senator

Barbara Boxer
U.S. Senator

Ron Wyden
U.S. Senator

Tom Udall
U.S. Senator

Bernard Sanders
U.S. Senator

Christopher A. Coons
U.S. Senator

Kay R. Hagan
U.S. Senator

Al Franken
U.S. Senator

Joesph Lieberman
U.S. Senator

Jon Tester
U.S. Senator


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