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This Week in Washington

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In 1984, a friend of mine referred to me as a "hippie" because I installed solar panels and a wood-fueled hot water heater in my home in an attempt to reduce electric power consumption and waste. We had a good natured laugh at my expense. Of course, since that time, alternative fuels and increased energy efficiency have become more and more important, so much so that our military is now heavily involved in finding ways to use more renewable and alternative energies, and consume less fuel, overall.

Since coming to Congress, I've made this one of my emphases in my work on the House Armed Services Committee. This past week, I had the opportunity to see firsthand the success of efforts being made to increase the energy and operational efficiency of our military and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. I joined former U.S. Senator John Warner (R-Va.) on a tour of Fort Bragg to meet with officials to discuss their efforts on post to reduce energy consumption and find more cost effective solutions to the base's energy needs.

Senator Warner and I viewed Fort Bragg's Biofuel Center and toured the post's new Thermal Energy Storage Facility. The base has undertaken great efforts to retrofit existing structures to make them more energy efficient, as well as taking common sense approaches to monitoring use and raising awareness of the energy used by each soldier and each facility. Warner said he was encouraged by the efforts being made at Fort Bragg to both raise awareness of energy consumption and better manage and control it, and I couldn't agree more. It is clear why Fort Bragg won the Clean Air Renewable Energy award last June. They are leading the way for our nation.

In many ways, the needs of a military base such as Fort Bragg mirror the energy needs and priorities of our nation. The base needs secure, reliable and cost effective sources of energy that minimize the impact on the environment and the surrounding community while reducing waste. Fort Bragg must be up and running all day and all night, every day of the year. The energy security efforts at Bragg continue to set an example for all of our armed forces. By reducing energy consumption, we can reduce our reliance on foreign oil and cut our spending substantially. And I believe the work being done there to reduce energy consumption will lead the way to solutions for us all.

Improving energy efficiency and defense related operational efficiency also has the potential to pay dividends to American businesses poised to take the lead in the innovation and manufacture of alternative energy technologies. America's role and prominence in the world this century will be largely based on how quickly and effectively we establish our energy independence and develop industries ready to profit from the technological advances that make such independence possible. Just as such efforts are vital to the sustainability and readiness of our armed services and the Army's efforts to obtain long-term energy security; they are equally important to small businesses and the economic growth of communities across our nation.

The benefits of the military's focus on alternative and sustainable fuels are no doubt going to have a positive impact on our district's economy, as well. From mobile solar units to modular waste gasification generators to all-electric vehicles, our district is host to businesses and farms that are ready to supply the materials and technologies to help lead our nation into a secure, independent energy future. My office is continuing to work closely with the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, along with area businesses, to ensure all possible resources are available in support of these efforts.

I am proud of the work being done at Fort Bragg on energy security and efficiency initiatives, and I am also proud of the small businesses across our district that are rising to the challenge of providing the materials and technology we need to secure America's energy future. I am confident that the work being done at Fort Bragg and across our district will provide key innovations that will play a role in establishing our nation's energy independence as alternative and sustainable fuels becomes a larger and larger part of our military strategy as well as providing a boost to our recovering economy.

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