The U.S. Military's Secret Weapon: Going Green

“The White House announced Tuesday it is inviting contract proposals from green energy firms to boost the Army’s use of renewable energy,” said The Hill. “The administration is making $7 billion available for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to spend on locally-generated biomass, geothermal, solar or wind energy for up to 30 years.”

“The move is part of a broader White House-led push to green the armed forces, over GOP opposition, which claims the efforts are a waste of taxpayer dollars. The Defense Department has set ambitious targets, aiming for renewable sources to account for 25 percent of its energy by 2025, with the Army working toward getting 1 gigawatt of power from green sources by that year.”

This follows on the heels of a report from Forbes that, “The U.S. Department of Defense plans to open up 16 million acres of its land for renewable energy development, which it hopes will create a boom of solar, wind and geothermal projects and provide clean power to military bases, the department announced Monday.”

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“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on promoting renewable energy generation projects on public land that has historically been restricted for military uses. About 13 million of those 16 million acres are located in western U.S., where a lot of solar, wind and geothermal power development already has been taking place on private and other types of public land.”

The article also notes that a majority of our military bases rely on traditional power grids and need to utilize backup generators during blackouts. This is one reason “The military has been vocal about its support of renewable energy, from electricity to transportation fuels, that it says will help it become more self-sufficient and reduce its vulnerabilities in the battle fields.”

“Renewable energy will allow a military base to maintain critical operations for weeks or months if an electric power grid goes down,” said Dorothy Robyn, deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment.

While all this sounds great, not everyone is in agreement.

NPR reported that, “The military says it's dangerous to depend exclusively on fossil fuels, and has launched a program to develop alternative fuels for use by military vehicles. Energy consumption is a big expense for the Pentagon. But some members of Congress don't think the military should be a laboratory for finding energy alternatives, and say the military should not be spending money on this kind of research at a time when defense dollars are shrinking.”

The National Journal made this observation more explicit last month, saying, “Republicans in both the House and Senate this year have proposed cutting funds for alternative-energy programs in the defense authorization bill. But these efforts won’t gain much traction . . . In particular, arguing in favor of cutting military biofuels spending becomes an uphill battle when Pentagon officials, military veterans, and former lawmakers are saying that the spending is needed to save lives in war zones . . . Pentagon officials have long argued that alternative energy can save both money—by reducing dependence on oil—and lives, because American fuel convoys are often targeted in attacks.”

And the naysayers may be too late anyway.

The Department of Defense website has a landing page dedicated to over a dozen articles (plus a link to a couple hundred more in its digital archive) with topics such as “Naval Station Opens Green Training Facility,” DOD Must Have Petroleum Fuel Alternatives,” “Air Force Moves Forward With Green Energy.”

It appears that the convoys, planes, and ships are already well on their way to a green future.

Do you think the military is spending money wisely in its pursuit of renewable energy?

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Lawrence Karol is a writer and editor who lives with his dog, Mike. He is a former Gourmet staffer and enjoys writing about design, food, travel and lots of other stuff. @WriteEditDream | Email Lawrence |