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Time for a Military Makeover?
By Michael Schweibinz

The United States military is heavily reliant on fossil fuels; they power our troops forward on everything from tanks to aircraft carriers to Humvees. Our fuel dependence has created a “huge national security threat to our military overseas.” Interestingly enough, it’s not our economists or politicians admitting this reality – it’s our veterans. Aaron Bailey, a veteran of the U.S Army who served in Afghanistan, claimed “I’ve seen how our single-source reliance and the burden of securing conventional energy supplies poses a threat to our troops’ lives and our military’s mission. I’m not alone.”

Our military gas-guzzlers fall into a category called “operational energy,” which accounts for 75 percent of all the energy used by our military. There are serious drawbacks associated with this operational energy; a GreenBiz article explains some of these “unintended consequences, which:

  • Cause ships, planes and vehicles, such as tanks, to cease operations during refueling. This takes time and keeps the vehicle from completing its mission. Fuel convoys are also prime targets for ambushes and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
  • Binds the military to a volatile commodity with changing prices and an unstable future.
  • Exacerbates climate change, an issue that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently called a “threat multiplier.” According to Hagel, climate change will influence resource competition and “aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions.” These stressors will increase the frequency, scope and duration of future conflicts and, by extension, U.S. military interventions around the globe.”

When envisioning our military’s equipment one typically conjures up an image of the latest and greatest gear. Unfortunately, these bullet points above don’t scream adaptation and cutting edge innovation. They instead, as stated by Aaron Bailey, lead to the realization that “today’s energy system is stuck in the last century.” Fortunately, there is a consensus to innovate among our military leaders. The military is now taking aggressive action to develop alternative fuels and is investing in new energy technologies. And as of last year, the military committed to generating “20 percent of its electricity on installations from renewable sources by 2020.”

Advancing our military’s energy sources will allow us to better address the security challenges of this century. The military can save precious mission time, taxpayer dollars, and soldier’s lives by altering its energy sources – all while also protecting the global environment and the world that future generations will inherit.

Posted: June 16, 2014