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Guest Thinkers

A Green Military

Arguments about green technologies tend to focus on what, if anything, the government should do to get people to adopt them. Those who would dismiss them generally argue that global warming isn’t really a serious problem or that energy efficiency standards hurt the economyoften at the urging of energy lobbies. And as Bill McKibben argues, we may simply not want to admit that we can’t reasonably do anything we want. But lost in these arguments is one key fact: energy-efficient technologies simply make a lot of sense.

That’s what the military has determined, anyway. The military doesn’t care much about environmental politics. But The New York Times reports that the military is investing in renewable energy technologies like solar tent shields that generate electricity. Last year, the Navy introduced a hybrid amphibian assault ship. And the Air Force has begun to experiment with using biofuels in its planes. It’s part of a broad push to reduce the military’s dependence on fossil fuels. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says he hopes to have the Navy and the Marines generate half their power from renewable sources by the end of the next decade.

This isn’t political correctness. Keeping the troops supplied with fuel is expensive, and can cost lives. Mabus points out that fossil fuels are the number one thing we export to Afghanistan. Transporting and guarding all that fuel requires resources. The New York Times reports that while gas costs the military just $1 a gallon, it can cost over over $400 a gallon to get that gas to some forward bases. Anything the military can do to reduce its reliance on gas makes sense.

In a way, the military’s problem keeping itself supplied with fuel is the same the problem we have keeping ourselves supplied with fuel as a society. We have to go great to lengths—both militarily and diplomatically—to secure our fuel supply, even if the real price we pay isn’t reflected at the pump. That’s why even if there were no threat of global warming, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels would still make such good sense.


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