This week, leaders from industry, government and research institutions gathered in Las Vegas for the National Clean Energy Summit. The day-long event featured addresses from Vice President Joe Biden, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
On Tuesday, Vice President Biden emphasized the need to “unleash” the innovative potential in the clean energy sector in order to compete with countries like China that are already making huge investments in their own industry so they can compete globally. “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” President Obama said in his State of the Union Address earlier this year. “If we don’t develop renewable energy, we will make the biggest mistake in this nation’s history,” Vice President Biden told the Las Vegas audience.
The administration has continued to support its vision for a clean energy future, most recently by authorizing the Departments of Agriculture, Defense and Navy to invest $510 million over three years to stimulate the biofuel industry. “The combined effort of these three departments is a powerful force that will decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil, position American companies to be global leaders in the production of advanced drop-in biofuels, and create jobs for American farmers and American companies,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said on Tuesday.
For its part, the military – most notable the U.S. Navy – is testing biofuel blends in its aircraft fleet in an effort to wean itself from its dependence on conventional liquid fuels. Last Wednesday, the U.S. Navy expanded its alternative energy program by testing a 50/50 blend of JP-5 jet fuel and camelina biofuel in a T-45 training aircraft. On Tuesday, Secretary Mabus announced that the Navy’s next big milestone will be met this weekend when all six of the Navy’s Blue Angels perform on a 50/50 biofuel blend at the Pax River Labor Day Air Show. “This will be the first time an entire unit has flown on a biofuel mix," Mabus told the audience.
The event received widespread coverage, which is always great to see. And for me, it was great to see the administration and the military discussing its efforts outside of the Washington echo chamber. Indeed, by moving the conversation beyond Washington, there is some hope that industry, government and research leaders can grow the constituency for clean energy technology and help put the United States on more secure footing by moving us toward a future with a much more diverse energy portfolio.