This article originally appeared on PolicyMic on 26 September 2011.
I, like most people, enjoy green spaces and fresh air and clean water. This is what most people associate with the push for “green” energy sources and energy independence. This push also transcends into a ruggedly mobile energy-independent American fighting force.
While climate change doubters and advocates of the oil and coal industries in Congress continue to block progress on American energy independence for the general population, the U.S military is leading its own charge from the front.
A recently-released report from the independent Pew Project on National Security, Energy, and Climate finds the Department of Defense increased spending on new energy 300% between 2006 and 2009, and it continues to increase. One of the most vocal proponents of creating a force independent of fossil fuels is Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who likes to point out that there were doubters when the Navy switched from sail to coal, from coal to diesel, and diesel to nuclear. They all look rather silly today. The same kind of change is happening now.
After reading the report, it is not hard to understand why the military is so eager to dump oil dependence. “Operational energy costs” — costs for running actual military operations — account for three-quarters of the DoD energy budget.
Some 81% of that is spent on jet fuel. The Air Force is the largest military consumer of oil, but plans to use biofuels in 50% of its U.S. flights by 2016. The Navy successfully built and tested an FA-18 “Green” Hornet fighter jet that performs the same as a regular fighter, but runs on alternative fuel. The Navy and Marine Corps plan to use alternative energy in 50% of their operational platforms by 2020. It is understandable why the “ground-pounders” in the Army and Marines want to cut fuel use when, in 2010, 1 in every 46 convoys in Afghanistan produced a casualty and 80% of supply convoys were transporting fuel.
The other quarter of the DoD’s energy costs goes to fuel its bases in the U.S. and abroad. The Pew report points out that DoD manages 3 times the square footage of the entire Wal Mart corporation. At home, the Army plans by 2020 to convert at least 6 of its massive installations throughout the country to “net zero” energy use — they’ll produce as much of their own energy as they use. In Iraq and Afghanistan, simply insulating buildings has saved 77,000 gallons of fuel daily. The DoD produced or procured already close to 10% of its energy from renewable sources in 2010.
The U.S. military is taking investment in new alternative energy sources very seriously. If there was any doubt as to its dependability or capabilities, you can bet our military leaders would not put our troops at risk. This stuff works for them. If it works for the military, it can work for the rest of us. If only our Congress would just get out of the way.