US Military Switch to Renewable Energy

Utne magazine has an interesting article about the US military shift to renewable energy. With their budget, buying power and technical skills, they will make a big difference to the renewable economy.

Half of the casualties the US military had in Iraq and Afganistan have been related to fuel convoys. They are an easy and highly explosive target. In some cases, getting fuel to troops costs $25-$50/gallon. At those prices, renewable energy makes sense all day long.

One company was outfitted with solar thin film photovoltaics to recharge their radios and equipment. While the troops started out skeptical, they are now among the biggest supporters. The need for fuel dropped from 20-25 gallons per day to 20 gallons per week, as solar did the work that gasoline generators used to. Even better, recharging with solar is quiet, which is of course very useful if you are trying to keep hidden.

But the military is going beyond just field units, where solar makes perfect sense, saves money and lives, to include renewable energy for all of their bases, and their vehicles. Admiral Mike Mullen said they need to address energy security, “before we deploy another soldier, before we build another ship or plane, and before we buy or fill another rucksack.” Bases are seeing solar and wind installed, and vehicles are being tested for use of biofuels. New vehicle designs are helping reduce fuel need, like the USS Makin Island, an electric hybrid ship that uses 60% less fuel that its predecessors.

The military is converting to renewables for strategic reasons. It is not because of climate change, or oil spills. It is because switching to renewables saves lives, and reduces cost, and provides energy security. An enemy can’t cut of the sun or wind supplies like they can oil.

The logic used by the military is sound. But they have a limited vision. Many people believe that one of the main things the US fights for is access to oil. Think Iraq. Think Libya. Think Kuwait. Then think about taking the entire US economy and making the shift to renewable energy. Progress is being made, but more progress is possible. No more need to fight over oil. Wouldn’t that be the best way to reduce the loss of lives, and save money?

But good for the military to have the renewable vision. They are well positioned to build bi-partisan support for their plan.

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