WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus today invited public comments on efforts by USDA and the Department of the Navy to reduce reliance on foreign oil, fossil fuels and develop renewable energy sources that can be used to help power the U.S. naval fleet.

"During our recently concluded forums in Hawaii, our respective departments agreed that there should be a review and comment period to allow the American public the opportunity to explore and discuss the work and activities surrounding efforts by USDA and DON to develop renewable energy sources and systems," Vilsack said. "As President Obama said recently at Andrews Air Force Base, 'Our military leaders recognize the security imperative of increasing the use of alternative fuels, decreasing energy use, reducing our reliance on imported oil, making ourselves more energy-efficient.' This initiative supports that effort."

The public is invited to visit this USDA website and offer their comments . Upon entering the site, please select "Hawaii USDA/Navy Energy Conference 2010" to view presentations, speeches and other public materials from these forums. Comments will be accepted until June 4, and may be e-mailed to the address listed at the end of the webpage: Energy.hawaii@osec.usda.gov.

The Hawaii public forums were held to discuss ways in which USDA can help the U.S. Navy move toward greater use of biofuels and the development of other renewable energy systems. The departments are working together to support President Obama's initiative to make the United States a global leader in developing a renewable energy economy and the Hawaii forums were designed to support a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Secretary Mabus and Secretary Vilsack signed on Jan. 21 to encourage the development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems.

"We cannot be beholden to a resource controlled by others. We would never accept that our aircraft or our ships be built overseas, and yet we accept today that they be powered from resources from overseas. Therefore we are working with our partners from industry, other government agencies and states like Hawaii to move toward sustainable alternative fuels to replace those fossil fuels," said Mabus.

The recently released Quadrennial Defense Review makes clear that crafting a strategic approach to energy and climate change is a high priority for the Department of Defense (DoD). This reflects mission considerations above all. The Department's own analysis confirms what outside experts have long warned: our military's heavy reliance on fossil fuels creates significant risks and costs at a tactical as well as a strategic level. The DoD is actively pursuing strategic initiatives to enhance energy security and independence and reduce harmful emissions, including encouraging the development and use of domestically produced advanced biofuels.

The MOU complements USDA and The Navy and Marine Corps' existing renewable energy programs and efforts. USDA has a variety of programs and services that support renewable energy development, including:

  • Rural Development loan and grant programs focused on developing renewable energy systems and helping agricultural producers and businesses adopt energy efficiency improvements;
  • The Farm Service Agency's Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which supports the establishment and production of crops for conversion to bioenergy, biobased products and power, and
  • The Research, Education and Economics division's comprehensive bioenergy research program focused on developing new varieties and hybrids of bioenergy feedstocks.

The Department of the Navy recently established the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy Office to develop and employ proven business models and investment strategies that leverage public and private investment to achieve naval, defense and national energy goals. The United States has abundant natural resources -- including wind, solar, hydrokinetic, ocean, geothermal, and land for biomass energy crops -- that can be refined into biofuels to meet commercial, military transportation and other energy needs.