The US Department of Defense is the largest consumer of energy in the United States spending $18 billion a year. Fueling jet engines and running generators at operating bases use up much of the Pentagon’s fuel.
Coupled with economics, dwindling natural resources, and the dangers of transporting fuel in war zones (half of all US casualties in Iraq are from attacks on fuel carrying convoys), the military plans to spend economic stimulus money on alternative fuels and energy conservation.
Traditionally, the Department of Defense has cared little about saving money. The recent shift towards alternative fuels as a military priority is an effort to reduce casualties rather than save natural resources or funds. “The honest-to-God truth, the most compelling reason to do it is it saves lives,” said Brigadier General Steven Anderson, director of operations and logistics for the Army. Saving money, preserving dwindling natural resources and lessening U.S. dependence on foreign sources are lesser priorities of the alternative fuels and energy conservation initiatives.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars have set the record for the most fuel consumption of any war in US history. Since the War on Terror began in 2001, the amount of oil consumption has increased from 50 million gallons to 500 million gallons a year at bases. Using Economic Stimulus Package money, the Pentagon has several alternative fuels and energy saving projects planned.
Tactical Garbage to Energy Refinery: Deployed in the summer of 2008, the Army tried mobile unit prototypes that converted field waste (paper, plastic, cardboard and food slop) into biofuel using an anaerobic microbial process. The garbage-based biofuel was used to power a 60-kilowatt generator. Unfortunately, the prototypes broke down and couldn’t handle the ton of trash a day a base creates. $7.5 million of the stimulus money will be used to create a more rugged model.
Lightweight, Flexible Photovoltaic Mats: $15 million of the stimulus money will be used by the military to develop solar mats that can be rolled up and transported easily to forward bases. “We think $15 million will let us build, develop and test one of these roll-out mats,” said Alan R. Shaffer, director of defense research and engineering at the Pentagon.
Algae into Jet Propulsion Fuel 8: $6 million will go towards the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for converting algae into jet fuel for the Navy and Air Force.
Hybrid Tactical Vehicles: $27 million will fund the development of a hybrid engine the Army can use in tactical vehicles.
Highly Efficient Portable Fuel Cells: In order to reduce the battery load infantry soldiers must carry, $2 million will be dedicated for the development of fuel cell technology.
Spray-Foam Tents: The $29 million expansion of this energy conservation program will insulate tents reducing the amount of fuel needed for heating and cooling. The current program saves the Army $2 million per day.
I’m all for the Pentagon using stimulus money for alternative fuels and energy saving initiatives, and I hope the projects result in information that will be shared with the private sector and not classified. However, no matter how much money the military spends to be green, the greatest good they can do for the environment and human rights is to end the conflict in the Middle East.
Author: J. Lance