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U.S. Military Leads the Fight for Fossil Fuel Independence

U.S. Military Leads the Fight for Fossil Fuel Independence

The U.S. military is making huge strides in renewable energy, even in battle zones, while other agencies and business lag in efforts to get away from oil and coal dependence. The New York Times reports that solar energy technologies are being deployed in the war zone of Afghanistan, both to save money and decrease the risk to the troops. Portable solar panels, solar chargers, energy-conserving lights and other renewable technologies are being successfully used in the field.

Oil and gas make up the lion’s share of the current supply line to our troops in Afghanistan. Tankers have been attacked and troops injured while guarding the convoys. and transporting the fuel is enormously expensive. The Times notes: “While the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, getting that gallon to some forward operating bases costs $400.” Price is certainly an incentive to innovation and one can only imagine how other business interests would get behind renewable energy if gas were $400 per gallon here.

The military is deeply involved in renewable energy at home as well, aided by its enormous purchasing power and a command-and-control structure that can make implementation happen rapidly. The Pentagon is the largest consumer of oil in the U.S., and is mandated to procure 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Partnerships with the private sector have been key to progress. The largest solar array in the country is at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Funded by private investors, the site provides one-fourth of the base’s energy needs and has the capability to feed energy back into the public grid. The U.S. Navy has set a target of 2016 to “sail the Strike Group as a Great Green Fleet composed of nuclear ships, surface combatants equipped with hybrid electric alternative power systems running on biofuel, and aircraft running on biofuel.” And Scientific American reports that the U.S. military’s multiple projects in geothermal energy generation could eventually make it a net supplier to the U.S. power grid.

While efficiency and cost are factors in the military’s moves to go green, they have also officially recognized climate change as a grave security threat. The good news is that partnerships between the military and civilian renewable energy firms may help to develop the needed technology faster and eventually bring down the cost of renewables for the rest of us.

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Photo: Department of Defense website

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75 comments

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6:06AM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

The U S military is certainly much better off with portable sources of sustainable energy in the field than fighting a losing battle to guard its supply lines. This includes kits to grown algae on base and extract bio-diesel from it. It also includes portable fold up solar panels plus battery charges and anything else needed to make full use of the electricity from the portable solar panels.

1:46PM PDT on Oct 21, 2010

Way back in the 1970's the US established a very small new department in the United States government called the Department of Energy. Does anybody remember what the original mission of the DOE actually WAS?

OK, here it is. It was created to REDUCE OUR DEPENDENCE ON FOREIGN OIL. At that time we were importing an alarming 30% of our oil from overseas.

Now, almost 40 year later, it burns through $28 BILLION a year, and our oil import rate stands at ... around 70%. Great job there, gang. We're really getting our money's worth on THAT mission. Of course, I suppose that they will tell us that WITHOUT their efforts it could be 118% or something like that ...

3:41AM PDT on Oct 14, 2010

Public relations crap. The US military is the number one polluter and energy waster on planet earth! Also i have no more sympathy fot US invaders in other lands than for the nazi's in occupied europe and like the 3rd Reich that the USA so closely resembles i will have no sympathy when it falls... which it soon must, it is a mathematical inevitability when a bankrupt state keeps an expensive war machine harming everything it touches Including it's own personnel which it then denies medical assistence to for DU cancers and birth defects, for covert medical experiments, for exposure to all manner of toxins, and of course for all of the other problems that come from unethical wars and 'police actions' in order to steal resources and make profits for US corporations

2:05PM PDT on Oct 12, 2010

Unfortunately and fortunately, war does bring about change. The costs are horrible, especially the human costs. From this horror we may be able to salvage something that helps humanity and that will be good. I appreciate the sacrifices and the innovations.

7:10AM PDT on Oct 12, 2010

Robin, what does love have to do with global warming? Love is just a euphemism for sex.

7:09AM PDT on Oct 12, 2010

good news

6:08AM PDT on Oct 12, 2010

A step in the right direction. But we still need to stop this pointless war...

2:51PM PDT on Oct 11, 2010

A commitment like this from the military has to be good news.

Make a difference, give Love, Understanding and Tolerance. Plant a Tree.

8:24AM PDT on Oct 11, 2010

About time the milatary finnaly noticed what is happening to the world.

11:29AM PDT on Oct 10, 2010

Clean energy to kill innocent people, oh yeah.

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Judy Molland An award-winning writer and teacher, Judy Molland is also an avid hiker, backpacker, and nature... more
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