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Senators weigh in on renewable energy at Nevada Forum

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Corey Parrish)

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Corey Parrish)

LAS VEGAS -- Two senators addressed Nevada Forum attendees here Aug. 25 to laud the Air Force for its leadership in green initiatives and offer support in finding safe, compatible ways to continue renewable energy without impeding military training missions.

During the second day of the three-day forum, Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin Conaton introduced key note speaker and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) as tireless advocates for renewable energy.

Senator Reid described renewable energy as a discussion "long overdue and more urgent than ever," given the country's significant energy challenges.

"We use 21 million barrels of oil every day ... and about 70 percent of oil we use we import from foreign nations," Senator Reid said. "The military has long recognized that we will never be a secure nation until we are secure with our energy production."

In a later speech, Senator Ensign noted that not only do training opportunities abound in Nevada, but the area has a chance to help the U.S. lead the way in energy independence.

"We should harness the power of American-based sources of energy; we have tremendous opportunities to be a leader in green energy," Senator Ensign said. "Our geography and topography have made us a unique location for our investment in renewable energy projects, especially solar and geothermal."

Senator Ensign related the significance of the Nevada Test and Training Range, the largest of its kind in the Air Force infrastructure.

"It truly is a national treasure and it must be preserved ... it is critical that these ranges remain intact," he said.

In addition to a vast training canvas, the area provides a rich energy resource.

"We have to look no further than the photovoltaic fields at Nellis (AFB), (where the) array generates over 25 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year and supplies about a quarter of Nellis's power needs."

Senator Ensign explained that a careful balance must be struck in exploiting renewable energy potential while preparing for war.

"Operating space is an incredible commodity, and one that is necessary for our pilots to receive the proper training that they need," Senator Ensign said. "Renewable energy development must be done as a partnership with our national security interests, not at the expense of them."

Senator Ensign said he has worked with Senator Reid to approve the permitting process for renewable energy on Nevada's public lands to minimize obstacles that could stifle development or military training.

"Our military has a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to play a lead role in making the United States a clean energy leader," Senator Ensign said. "The life and safety of our service members is and must continue to remain priority number one."

Senator Reid also shared his perspective on the military's role in energy initiatives, explaining that the Air Force is "ahead of the curve," by using the B-52 to begin their aircraft certification of hybrid fuel use at least four years ago.

"The military is holding up their end of the bargain, following through on a commitment to use energy more efficiently and to use cleaner alternatives to integrate clean engine technologies," he said.

The senators said they each look to the Air Force as an example for the nation on how to use energy well and that the forum is vital to addressing energy challenges.


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