Clean energy is more than a bright spot in Arizona's economy; it's also increasingly central to our national security.
While keeping an eye on the fuel gauge of my jet while flying missions over Iraq, I had plenty of time to think about America's fuel gauge, too. As the final assignment of my military career, I had the honor of serving as commander of the 12th Air Force at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Every day, we send $1 billion overseas for oil. Our military and security leaders, myself included, recognize that America's oil addiction funds terrorists and chains us to nations that do not share our interests. Not only will secure, clean and domestic energy create jobs for Arizonans - including our veterans coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan - it will also strengthen America's security.
In the military, we learn to use our assets to our advantage: If you have air superiority like the United States does, it doesn't make a lot of sense to engage your enemy on the ground. The same idea applies when it comes to national security: We need to leverage our assets to our advantage.
For Arizona, that means tapping into our greatest and most constant asset: the sun.
That's something our military is already beginning to do. Increasingly, the sun is being used to power forward operating bases in Afghanistan. Solar panels save lives on the front lines by minimizing the need for fuel convoys that are big, slow and highly vulnerable to attack.
And take our military bases right here in Arizona.
At Davis-Monthan, enough solar panels have been installed on the ground and on the rooftops of homes that it is now one of the single biggest solar-powered communities in the continental United States.
At Luke Air Force Base in suburban Phoenix, the Air Force is partnering with a local company to build an array of 52,000 high-efficiency solar panels. Once complete, the solar plant will meet 50 percent of the base's overall electricity needs.
In both cases, solar energy is providing the state's military bases with a source of secure, affordable and clean power.
The reality here in Arizona is that innovative clean-energy projects are providing jobs and improving our security. Our military is working hard to combat our deadly dependence on oil.
Not only that, but the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency have labeled global climate disruption as a "threat multiplier," meaning it takes a dangerous situation and makes it worse. Floods in Pakistan and droughts in Somalia are just a foreshadowing of climate change's ability to destabilize the globe.
The military's development and implementation of new, clean energy technologies tackles oil addiction and climate change - both grave threats to American security.
In the short term, solar power won't provide the only method of powering the U.S. military. Many sources of alternative, clean energies must be developed and deployed to wean us off oil.
But today, clean energy can help us tackle Arizona's pressing economic and energy security challenges. These are efforts we should encourage however we can. A nation that relies on a domestic, clean supply of energy is stronger for it. Arizona can step up to the challenge and help lead the way to a more secure future.
Norman R. Seip retired in 2009 as a lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force.