Veterans leading the charge for clean energy: A pathway to strengthen our national security
Special to Stars and Stripes November 14, 2023
Veterans have always played a vital role in preserving our national security. Now they’re leading the charge via clean energy, as new laws like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which celebrates its second anniversary this week, continue to create new openings with robust investments in American clean energy manufacturing.
Having both served in Iraq, we understand firsthand the critical role energy plays in our military operations. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exposed the vulnerabilities of our dependence on fossil fuels and the consequences of volatile energy prices. Our military convoys were frequent targets for attacks as they transported fuel through dangerous territories, resulting in tragic losses of life.
Those Iraq experiences left an indelible mark on us, compelling us to advocate for a more sustainable and secure energy future for our nation. The ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East further underscore the importance of investing in American energy independence. This is no time to retreat. We can’t afford not to move ahead. We cannot stand by and let adversaries like Russia, China and others control our energy future.
The renewable energy sector offers numerous job opportunities here at home, from finance, development and manufacturing to installation, maintenance, research and development. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included $65 billion for clean energy transmission and the electric grid. Along with the Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, Americans could see as many as 9 million new jobs created over the next 10 years.
Many can be and will be filled by veterans.
Veterans, with their strong work ethic and dedication to mission accomplishment, are well-suited to fill these roles. Our military training has instilled in us the discipline and skills necessary to excel in these fields, and we are uniquely positioned to lead the way in ensuring that the United States remains competitive in the global clean energy marketplace.
Moreover, the clean energy transition is an opportunity for our nation to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, strengthening our national security. By investing in clean energy technologies, we can decrease the vulnerability of our energy infrastructure to disruptions caused by geopolitical conflicts or natural disasters. We must remember that our adversaries often rely on the profits derived from the sale of oil and gas to fund their hostile activities, so taking control of our own energy future is a strategic imperative.
Many of our fellow veterans have successfully transitioned from the military into mission-driven roles within the clean energy sector, bringing their discipline, leadership and problem-solving skills to the table. Their experiences in the military have honed their ability to work under pressure, adapt to changing circumstances, and collaborate in diverse teams — skills that are invaluable in the dynamic world of clean energy.
The Department of Defense, recognizing the importance of energy security and resilience, has been a driving force behind innovation in this field. Military bases are transitioning to renewable energy sources and microgrids, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing energy resilience. These efforts make the military more effective and demonstrate the potential for a cleaner and more secure energy future for all Americans.
To safeguard America’s clean energy manufacturing boom, we must protect laws like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Inflation Reduction Act that are driving this growth. The climate and clean energy investments provided in the IRA are beneficial for our national security and empower hardworking families. Companies like General Electric, General Motors and Mitrex Solar all cited President Joe Biden’s Affordable Clean Energy plan when announcing job-creating expansions in New York. All those investments translate to 15,505 new clean energy jobs in the state.
New York isn’t the only state experiencing the manufacturing boom. States like Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and others in the industrial Midwest are creating an unprecedented number of new good-paying jobs. In total, more than 175,000 jobs are being created by the president’s climate and clean energy plan.
Our combat service in Iraq taught us the importance of adaptability, the need for resilience, and the necessity of thinking beyond the present moment. These lessons are equally applicable in the transition to clean energy. Our fellow veterans have the skills, the experience and the commitment to safeguard our national security and lead the way in the clean energy transition. As we recently honored our veterans on Veterans Day, let us also recognize and support their crucial role in ensuring a cleaner, safer and more secure future for all Americans.
Patrick Ryan, a Democrat, represents New York’s 18th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kevin Johnson is board director of the Environmental Defense Action Fund.