October 5, 2010
The Military Understands Why Getting Off Oil Pays. Why Don't We?
The New York Times reported today that the U.S. Military is aggressively pursuing "Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels." Why does the military care about going green? Because the cost in money, resources, and lives to bring fuel to Afghanistan and Iraq is just too great. A few of the mind-blowing statistics in this article:
- Fossil fuel is the number one thing the military imports into Afghanistan (30 to 80 percent of convoy loads)
- The military spends $1 per gallon of gas, but can then spend up to $400 more per gallon to get it to forward operating bases
- For every 24 fuel convoys, one soldier or civilian working on transport was killed
This last fact is truly tragic. The Times got this number from an amazing analysis by the Army Environmental Policy Institute. According to this chilling report, in 2007 alone, 170 people lost their lives on fuel caravans (and another 68 on water transport). The study then goes on to provide hope in the form of calculations on how many lives can be saved by investing in thin-film solar to complement generators in forward bases.
The military has realized over recent years that our reliance on fossil fuels is a direct threat to our military in operation, but is also a larger national security threat. The contrast with our political failings to tackle climate and energy holistically could not be more stark. As the Times put it,
Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer.
The military is seeing how much of a liability oil really is to our war efforts. It's not a big leap to say that reliance on fossil fuels is a liability to our health and economy as well. But you'd think the security argument would be enough.
Military leaders at think tanks like CNA and very well-respected security experts such former CIA head Jim Woolsey (see his recent WSJ op-ed) have been making the case for years that we need to get off of fossil fuels (in particular oil, which props up dictators and funds terror).
I wish I understood why the security argument has not united our politicians on both sides of the aisle to create comprehensive legislation which puts a price for carbon and provides incentives to promote new technologies and support entrepreneurs (the stimulus money is a very good start, but is not in place for the long term).
Luckily for our soldiers, the military is not waiting for us to get our act together on a political or industiral level and is just pushing forward to find new energy solutions. Bravo.