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Obama praises DOD's energy leadership, stewardship

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- President Barack Obama traveled to Buckley Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 26 to praise the military for "doing its part" -- not just in the nation's defense, but also as leaders in energy conservation.

Obama delivered his message at the home of the 460th Space Wing in Aurora, Colo., calling the "green" initiatives being advanced here indicative of the Defense Department's clean-energy focus.

The Air Force has installed a 1-megawatt solar array on the base, and last year test piloted jets there that run on advanced biofuels, demonstrating a key technology that reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Joined by Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and Sharon Burke, assistant secretary of defense for operational energy, Obama praised them for their work with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta "to keep our military the strongest in the world, and to make our military more energy efficient."

"Now, it's important for the military to do its part because ... our military is the largest energy consumer in the world," the president said. "So we can set a good example, and help create an additional market for clean energy."

Obama noted that the Navy plans to buy enough clean energy to power 250,000 homes a year, through an effort that won't cost taxpayers a dime.

"What does it mean?" he asked the crowd, a mix of military members, students in clean energy programs and local energy stakeholders. "It means that the world's largest consumer of energy, the Department of Defense, is making one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history."

That commitment will grow the clean-energy market and ultimately strengthen U.S. energy security, he said.

Obama recognized that DOD isn't embracing clean energy simply because "it feels good," but also because it makes economic sense.

"Our number one priority is always the security of this nation," he emphasized. And "what our military understands is that if we're smart on energy that saves DOD budgets that allow them to do a whole bunch of other things."

Alternatives to fossil fuels also are important to national security, the president told the crowd.

"The less we depend on foreign oil, the more secure we become as a nation," he said.

The president noted Mabus' point that the U.S. dependence on foreign fossil fuels creates a vulnerability that could affect its ability to operate its military ships, aircraft and vehicles.

That's why, Obama explained, the Navy in December made the government's largest-ever purchase of biofuel. "This summer, that fuel will power ships and subs during the world's largest naval exercise," he said, a reference to the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise.

Obama also noted that the Navy's F/A-18 Green Hornet is powered by a 50/50 biofuel blend. And last year, the Air Force flew an A-10 Thunderbolt II entirely on alternative fuels - a first for the military.

"Overall, the Air Force is on track to save $500 million in fuel costs over the next five years because you guys have changed the way you operate. Think about that: half a billion dollars," he told the audience, drawing big applause.

Obama also expounded on the plan he introduced during his Jan. 24 State of the Union address to reduce America's fuel dependency, make it more secure, improve the environment and create jobs. In addition to promoting more green programs in the military, it includes opening public lands for private clean-energy investments and providing tax incentives to the domestic clean-energy sector.

As he delivered his message, the president praised the 460th Space Wing and other military members at Buckley AFB and thanked them for their service.

"During a decade of war, these folks -- so many of you - exhibited the very best of America: courage, selflessness, teamwork," he said.

Reiterating his remarks during his State of the Union address, he told them, "You've exceeded all expectations, because you focus on your mission; you work together; you get the job done."