20 December 2010

On Energy Transition, US Military Leads

Photo Credit: US Army
As Tom Friedman points out in his column yesterday, "the U.S. military loses one person, killed or wounded, for every 24 fuel convoys it runs in Afghanistan."

Soldiers and others are put in harm's way as part of convoys, hundreds and hundreds of them, needed to transport fuel to run air conditioners and diesel generators in remote bases all over that country.

But what if the "U.S. Navy and Marines could replace those generators with renewable power and more energy efficient buildings, and run its ships on nuclear energy, biofuels and hybrid engines, and fly its jets with bio-fuels"?  One out-come, Friedman argues, would be to "out-green the Taliban."

The military is making a strategic move to alternative energy and energy efficiency, in part because it recognizes the national security issues associated with dependence on fossil fuel energy and the potential impacts of climate change. 

In its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Report, the Department of Defense (DoD) found that climate change "may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.”

This threat, coupled with an energy budget of $20 billion, has led the DoD to take steps to reduce is dependence on fossil fuels, strive for energy efficiency, and reduce its carbon emissions by developing and deploying clean tech innovations.

They have also recognized the potential threats from so-called "peak oil," warning last spring "that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact," according to a report from the US Joint Forces Command.

The US military has long been a leader in biodiversity conservation as well, with partnerships with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, NatureServe, and others around the US.  The DoD even has a special "Conservation Conveyance," which allows closed military bases to be transferred into permanent conservation status.

It should come as no surprise that the US military is becoming a leader in green tech innovation.  Defense led much of the global technological innovation of the last half of the 20th Century after the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in 1958. 

ARPA, or DARPA, as it is known today, developed the weapons that transformed warfeare in the last century, but also led to the electronic computer, robotics, the Global Positioning System (GPS), and the Internet.

The new green economy may in fact be led by a green revolution in the military, giving new meaning to DoD's mission of deterring war and protecting the security of the US.

As Friedman points out, the green innovations being fostered by the military "could save lives, money and the planet, and might even help us win — or avoid — the next war."

Enhanced by Zemanta