• Roll Call: A Veteran’s Perspective: Congress Must Not Threaten Climate Leadership

    This piece was originally featured on Roll Call.

    I joined the military so I could serve my country and defend the values that define the American way of life. Active leadership of the United States on the world stage has proven essential to solving the great global challenges of the past.

    As a nation, we have proved time and time again our ability to act outside of narrow self-interest in order to confront threats to global security, restore peace, and preserve equal opportunity for all.

    In the last century, the greatest generation halted expanding tyranny during World War II. In the wake of the destruction following that epic conflict, the United States rebuilt a world grounded in the principles of freedom and democracy. In doing so, the men and women of our grandparents’ generation understood that America’s strength and security is inextricably intertwined with the fate of all nations.

    However, as President Barack Obama noted in his recent address to the graduating class of West Point, the world is changing at an accelerating pace. While technology and information brings us closer together as a global community, our strength and security is challenged by new threats that transcend national borders.

    The need for American leadership to confront these new challenges has never been more pressing. Today, we face a creeping threat that has the potential to undermine all of our efforts towards global security: climate change.

    Climate change is the silent enemy in the defining challenge of this century to defend the world’s most vulnerable populations from extremism. The effects of climate change take many forms, among them rising sea levels, resource scarcity, and the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like droughts, storms and floods.

    These environmental shifts are exacerbating every struggle for security, reducing economic opportunity and accelerating instability from the Middle East to Africa to the Pacific Rim. These changes will test the strength of government institutions and the will of the international community to protect those populations that are most vulnerable to destabilization.

    During my deployments, I saw firsthand the violence and chaos that occurs when some of the most impoverished places in the world are destabilized by conflict. The strong prey upon the weak. Civil society breaks down, replaced by extremism. Nations break into tribes, and tribes turn upon each other. The most vulnerable inevitably bear the brunt of the conflict.

    Extremism naturally finds a foothold where environmental stressors and weak governance have already created a vacuum of power. All too often, this void is filled by non-state actors who provide basic services in exchange for promoting ideologies that spread chaos and violence. And if we as a country have learned anything over the past fifteen years, it is that events halfway around the globe have a direct impact on our security at home.

    It is undeniable that climate change puts the future of global stability and strength of democratic institutions at risk. These impacts exacerbate challenges to the values America has worked hard to promote around the world, and we must act to counter them.

    This is why the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is so critical: The fight begins with a robust strategy to curb emissions here at home. America’s leadership is critical to inspiring the efforts of other global players.

    There is no shortage of naysayers — particularly in Congress — who stubbornly insist that action here at home is irrelevant so long as other nations, such as China and India, continue to pollute. This view is as self-indulgent as it is shortsighted. No nation catalyzes global action better than the United States. We not only have an obligation to act, but also to lead all nations to act.

    Next year, we will have an opportunity to create a binding international agreement as the world comes together for another round of international climate negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France. The United States must come to the table both ready to take action, and serve as a strong moral and practical example. The world is watching to see if this is just a meaningless political maneuver or a pivot to serious American action on a critical issue.

    This is why it is imperative that all Americans engage in this process and demonstrate strong support for the standard’s successful implementation. Some in Congress — including Sens. Mitch McConnell and James M. Inhofe — have already signaled their intentions to torpedo this smart move by means of a Congressional Review Act report. Any further efforts to delay and perhaps even invalidate the new standard before it has a chance to produce positive results would be self-serving political posturing.

    It is up to mainstream America to push back against these naysayers who would abdicate American leadership. Climate change is a monumental threat recognized by leaders in science and defense — traditionally two of America’s strongest suits. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is the first step in a long fight, and Americans must demand action and stave off congressional interference so that we can step up to one of the greatest global challenges of our generation.

    Adam Tiffen is a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council and a veteran of three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a co-founder of Tri-Star Collaborative, a firm specializing in sustainable development in emerging markets and post-conflict environments.

  • Half the Oil: Building a More Secure America

    The costs of securing oil threaten the lives of our troops and hurt our economy. That is why our military is already leading the way in deploying clean energy technologies technologies that cut oil use and keep America safe and strong.

    Watch this video and share it with your family & friends! 


    For more information on threats & solutions, download our FAQ sheet here.


  • Generating Security: Resilient, Renewable Energy for Military Installations

    Last week,  I was proud to stand with Representative Scott Peters (D-San Diego) as he continues to push for energy security for our military.  Military installations here at home depend almost entirely on the fragile, antiquated electric grid for power, making them increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events or an attack on our infrastructure.  This is unacceptable.

    As a Navy veteran who was stationed here in Southern California and an energy efficiency engineer, energy security is a particularly vital issue to me.  It means having the power to keep a clinic up and running during a blackout.  It means being able to provide time-sensitive support to missions in Afghanistan when my brothers and sisters in arms need it.  And it means food, water, and medical assistance to surrounding communities during a natural disaster.

    There are more than 30 military installations in California alone.  Although there are diesel generators on site to provide backup for critical systems, these generators still need fuel that must be transported and stored.  In a natural disaster, logistics may prove impossible; at present, there is no plan for how to transport enough fuel to keep all the bases in Southern California powered through an extended blackout.

    And in the last few years, there were a lot of blackouts.  In 2012, the Department of Defense (DoD) reported 87 outages of 8 hours or more on military installations.  At one point during Hurricane Sandy, there were 8.5 million people without power.

    As the Secretary of Energy warned this year, more than half of the cyber-attacks in the United States have been focused on energy infrastructure.  Just over a year ago, there was an armed attack on a substation in San Jose – the perpetrators of which were never identified.  Between natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks, there is a clear and present danger presented by factors outside of our control.

    The Air Force, Army, and Navy will each generate more than one gigawatt of renewable energy on their installations by 2020.  Solar panels paired with large-scale modular batteries or other energy storage technologies are the key to providing power in the event of a blackout.

    Energy secure bases will use the renewable generation at their disposal to stay operational; in the case of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, that means a microgrid tied to the power they already generate from the adjacent landfill.  This additional level of sophistication, to keep the renewables generating power in a blackout, is not currently tied to any of the federal renewable policies.

    The Udall-Peters Department of Defense Energy Security Act of 2014 (DODESA 2014) will fix this problem and improve energy security by scaling up the integration of renewables and backup power systems.  Cost savings from existing DoD energy projects will be available for bases to use to fund further energy projects, creating a virtuous circle for clean energy projects that mirrors what’s happening in the private sector.  This legislation will also provide a vehicle for funding energy security itself, adding a cost benefit security analysis to the rules by which projects qualify for funding.

    But that’s not the only good news for installations in California.  Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission rebuffed the utilities’ attempts to charge additional fees and delay integrating battery-tied solar systems into the grid.  This is a win for manufacturers and providers of these systems but even more significant for facilities concerned about energy security.  And AB 2649, currently making its way through the California legislature will allow military bases to generate more solar power than just the one megawatt at which they were previously capped.

    For our national security at home and abroad, we have an obligation to keep the lights on when no one else can.  DODESA 2014 and AB2649 are huge steps in the right direction and efforts that I support whole heartedly as both a Californian and a veteran.  It is not a matter of if but when the next attack of natural disaster or attack or infrastructure failure occurs and we have an obligation to be prepared when it does.

  • The Burden

    The Issue

    • The U.S. military is waging war against its toughest long-term foe: Oil dependence, which threatens American prosperity, security and lives.
    • Operation Free is proud to be an Executive Producer of The Burden: Fossil Fuel, the Military, and National Security, directed by Roger Sorkin. The film tells a riveting story of oil dependence as the greatest threat to our national security and how the military is leading the fight for clean energy.
    • In only 40 minutes, The Burden also illustrates an exciting tale of innovation. History buffs know that many of our country’s most vital technologies—including the Internet and GPS—emerged out of military need. The film not only reflects the great potential for wind, solar and other alternative energy to improve U.S. military success, but also introduces us to brave servicemen and women who have formed a new American civilian corps of clean tech entrepreneurs.

    The Mission

    • Operation Free screens The Burden across the country to educate the American people and policymakers of all levels of government about energy security. For additional information and updates on the film, please visit theburdenfilm.com.
  • Military Clean Energy Colorado – Intro

    Like many Coloradans, the military recognizes that our single-source dependence on oil poses a threat to our national and economic security. But investing in homegrown, renewable energy to power military operations around the world and bases here at home can lessen that threat.

  • Media Roundup: Veterans in Solar Report

    In February 2014, Operation Free and The Solar Foundation released a joint report, Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future, which focused on veterans employed in the solar industry.

    Check out the featured news stories on the report:

    Clean Technica: New Report Highlights Growth in Solar Jobs for Veterans

    Fresh off the news that President Obama is making noises about withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan, the organizations Operation Free and The Solar Foundation have released a first-of-its-kind report that offers returning veterans the prospect of civilian employment in the US solar industry. In a nutshell, the new report demonstrates that veterans are employed in the solar industry at higher than average rates.

    Read the full story.

    Solar Power World: Operation Free & The Solar Foundation Launch Report on Veterans in Solar Industry

    Today, Operation Free and The Solar Foundation released a joint report on veterans working in the American solar industry. The first-of-its-kind report shows that veterans are employed within the solar industry at higher-than-average rates offering career opportunities to a group that has faced extraordinarily high unemployment. Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52), White House officials, and veterans working in the solar industry join Operation Free and The Solar Foundation at a launch event in support of the new report.

    Read the full story.

    Politico Morning Energy

    SOLAR INDUSTRY HAS HIGHER RATIO OF VETERANS THAN OVERALL WORKFORCE — REPORT: A little more than 9 percent of the U.S. solar workforce, or 12,192 people, are veterans, a higher ratio than the 7.6 percent of overall workforce, according to a report out today from Operation Free and the Solar Foundation. The two biggest sectors for those solar veterans and installation (39 percent) and manufacturing (27 percent), and the mean hourly wage is $21.44. The military provides extensive technical training and leadership experience, making veterans “ideal candidates for employment in the rapidly growing solar industry,” the report says. “However, there are currently few resources available to help these individuals successfully transition from the military into solar.”

    Read the full story.

    LEED Points: Study Surveys Veterans’ Powerful Presence in U.S. Solar Energy Industry

    For the first time, a report has gauged the contributions of veterans in the U.S. solar industry.

    According to Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future, released today by Operation Free and The Solar Foundation, 9.3 percent of the workers in the nation’s solar sector are veterans. That’s good for 13,192 employees who happen to be veterans of U.S. armed forces. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterans comprise nearly 8 percent of the nation’s entire workforce.

    Read the full story. 

    Market Watch: Solar Employs Higher Rate of Veterans Than Other Industries

    The solar industry employs veterans at a higher-than-average rate, according to a report by a veterans coalition and a solar industry trade group released Wednesday.

    Veterans make up 9% of all solar workers at a time when 16% of veterans 18 years old to 24 years old are unemployed, Operation Free and The Solar Foundation said in the report released Wednesday. That compares to an overall unemployment rate of 6% and an unemployment rate of 11% for non-veterans in the same age group. Veterans are 7.6% of the overall workforce.

    Read the full story.

    White House Council on Environmental Quality: How Our Veterans Are Securing Our Energy Future

    Like many of my fellow veterans, I first began to understand the issue of energy security while serving on the battlefield in Iraq.  Each night, after local workers left our base, we needed to move our fuel trucks because the location where those trucks had been would become a mortar target at night.  Over the past several years, the military has made incredible strides to address energy security on the battlefield.  They have learned that being energy efficient and having resilient power supplies not only saves money, but saves lives.

    Read the full story.

    Sustainable Business: Veterans Want Solar Jobs

    Almost 10% of the people that work in America’s solar industry are veterans, 13,192 employees.

    In fact, at 9.2% of solar employees, veterans are over-represented in the solar industry – they make up about 8% of the US workforce.

    That’s according to Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future, produced by the Veterans’ clean energy group Operation Free and The Solar Foundation.

    Read the full story.

    Clean Edison: How the Military Is (Indirectly) Fueling The Solar Industry 

    If ever there was a champion of efficiency, the military would be it. Energy efficiency is no exception to this generalization. As The Solar Foundation (TSF) and Operation Free tell us in a recent Veterans in Solar report, the U.S. military has scaled up its use of distributed renewable energy technologies, at home and in combat zones, to strengthen energy security and improve operational costs and capabilities.

    Always occupying a certain crest on the waves of technological innovation, the American military has made efforts toward energy independence, bolstered by a Department of Defense (DoD) mandate to use renewable power for 25% of total facility energy consumption by 2025. Bases across the United States have already installed over a 130-megawatt capacity of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. It is a strategic move in an effort to mitigate risk and make our military less vulnerable, but it has a seamless side-effect: job-ready veterans.

    Read the full story.

    Domestic Fuel: Veterans Move into Solar Industry Jobs

    According to a new report released jointly from Operation Free and The Solar Foundation,veterans are employed within the solar industry at higher than average rates. The report finds that for a group facing high unemployment, the solar industry is one of the best industries for jobs.

    The report, Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future, highlights the contributions of veterans to the solar industry, using data derived from The Solar Foundation’s annual National Solar Jobs Census 2013. The findings show that America’s solar industry has grown by 500 percent since 2008, providing more than 13,000 veterans with job opportunities as of November 2013. Veterans represent nearly 10 percent of all solar workers at a time when more than 15 percent of veterans aged 18-24 are currently unemployed. The report also discovered that the growth in the industry is continuing with nearly 62 percent of solar companies that employ veterans plan to add more solar workers within the next 12 months.

    Read the full story.

    Solar Industry: Military Veterans Finding A Friendly Welcome In The U.S. Solar Sector

    Solar companies are hiring military veterans at a higher rate than other U.S. employers. That’s according to a new report from Operation Free and The Solar Foundation (TSF). The report, “Veterans in Solar: Securing America’s Energy Future,” highlights findings from TSF’s National Solar Jobs Census 2013 relating to employment of veterans in solar work.

    As of November 2013, the U.S solar sector employed 13,192 veterans of the U.S. armed forces, the report says. That figure represents 9.2% of the 142,698 solar workers in the U.S. Among U.S. companies overall, only 7.6% of all workers are military veterans.

    Read the full story.

  • Military Clean Energy in Colorado – Our Mission

    Operation Free veterans and national security experts are engaged on the ground in Colorado to ensure local, renewable energy in the Rocky Mountains continues to grow. The mission of Operation Free is to support policies that advance the clean energy goals of Colorado’s military installations and allow roof top solar to grow statewide.

  • Military Clean Energy in Colorado – The Issue

    Like many Coloradans, the military recognizes that our single-source dependence on oil poses a threat to our national and economic security.  But investing in homegrown, renewable energy to power military operations around the world and bases here at home can lessen that threat.  That’s why Colorado military installations – notably the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson – are at the leading edge of military renewable energy efforts.

    And it’s not just the military.  On the civilian side, evidence of a growing renewables industry are everywhere in Colorado.  Wind is powering rural economies with affordable electricity while creating thousands of stable jobs – many of them for veterans.  And rooftop and large scale solar projects are bringing good jobs and clean energy to the Rocky Mountains too.

    Colorado’s clean energy leadership has been based – in no small part – on smart policy making by the Public Utilities Commission.  In January 2014, one of the most successful policies, Net Energy Metering, came under attack. Net Energy Metering literally puts the power in the hands of Coloradans, permitting them to produce their own, clean renewable energy – and when they have extra energy, to sell it back in to the grid at the same rate they buy it from the utility company.

    Following the military’s lead, Operation Free advocates support Net Energy Metering because it diversifies our energy options, making America less dependence on fossil fuels.  At the same time, alternatives like wind and solar can provide more stability to an aging power grid, ensuring military installations can remain online in the event of power outage.

    While the recent decision to uphold the policy demonstrates a reaffirmed commitment to the state’s clean energy future, we must continue to make sure Colorado’s policymakers listen to the people – and our military – who overwhelmingly support net energy metering.

  • Sudden Change: How The New EPA Policy towards Renewable Fuel Threatens Energy Independence

    When it comes to the growth of clean, homegrown fuels, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been a leader in the industry. Through a key federal policy – the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) —the EPA has led the way on developing and expanding the use of advanced biofuels by civilians and our military. However, in a shocking turn of events, the EPA may actually become the roadblock on the path to America’s post-oil future as they consider reducing the amount of alternative fuels the industry can produce in 2014.

    As a U.S. Army veteran who served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, I know alternative fuels are an essential tool for confronting our single-source dependence on oil, and ensuring our economic and national security. The EPA’s new attempts to weaken the advanced biofuels industry would not only undermine our ability to pursue a diverse energy sector, they would also hinder military readiness.

    As the largest institutional consumer of fuel in the world, the Department of Defense (DoD) is extremely vulnerable to price spikes cost of fuel. When fuel prices increase unexpectedly, the military must divert resources to pay for the increased energy costs. Additionally, our military spends enormous resources and puts our servicemen and women in greater risk just to keep global supply lines open and operable.

    That’s why the military is investing in advanced fuels to diversify energy sources and protect against price spikes.  They know this isn’t about being green.  It’s about expanding options to maintain the strongest fighting force in the world.

    Here at home, we are shackled to the same volatile global oil market. Our transportation sector is dependent on oil to meet more than 93 percent of its energy needs.  And because the price of oil is determined globally, unrest or instability in faraway places raises prices at the pump and hurts household budgets too.

    When it comes to America’s energy security, we need and deserve better choices. We shouldn’t hold ourselves back.

    Today, the robust policies put in place by the EPA are supporting the growth of the advanced biofuels industry. One particular success story is biodiesel, a type of advanced biofuel.  Last year, the United States produced more than a billion gallons of biodiesel, with every single gallon reducing our dependence on oil.  The industry is poised to produce even more this year, helping revitalize small businesses and local communities all over the country.

    However, proposed cuts to volume requirements for biodiesel and other advanced biofuels would hurt the future growth of the industry, limiting our country – and the military’s – ability to diversify fuel sources and hitting smaller producers and biorefiners especially hard.

    As someone who served and defended this country, I believe the military needs every tool at its disposal when it comes to powering the mission and keeping America safe.

    And as a North Carolinian, I want our state to continue leading the way in securing America with cleaner, advanced biofuels – like biodiesel. North Carolina is home to five biodiesel production companies, each generating private investment and creating jobs in local communities across the state – all while strengthening our national security.

    This is a fight for America’s energy future – and the stakes couldn’t be higher. I call upon the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider cutting their support for robust policies that provide alternatives to our dangerous dependence on oil and bolster the renewable fuels industry in America. Instead of standing in the way of a more secure energy future, the EPA should go back to leading the way.

    Chris V. Rey is a former Army Signal Officer who served in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He is currently the Mayor of Spring Lake, N.C

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