The US Military is Going Renewable, We Can Too

The U.S. military, knowing that the era of the mighty horse was nigh, formed the First Armored Division in 1940 and it wasn’t long before the unit was thrown into battle in North Africa at the onset of America’s involvement in World War II. The storied division, with stints in many battlefields including both Iraq wars, is now stationed at Fort Bliss in Texas.

At Fort Bliss another energy transition is underway that is even bigger than putting horses out to pasture. The Pentagon announced recently it was launching a massive renewable energy project at the base,  including building a 20-megawatt solar farm to power much of the sprawling installation.

The solar farm is to be completed in 2015 and it will be soon followed by other plans to harness wind, goethermal and waste-to-energy so the base can eventually produce all of its own energy from internal, renewable sources.

Love it or hate it, the American military has already given us everything from GPS to the Internet. And now it is in the midst of a crucial transition to renewable energy, which could have far reaching effects for the rest of us all over the world.

The Pentagon is sick and tired of fossil fuels. It hates the cost and it hates how vulnerable it leaves its troops in far flung climes such as Afghanistan. In addition to Fort Bliss, it has unveiled a series of initiatives to transition to renewable energy with the aim of deriving some 25 percent of its energy from green sources in just over a decade.

Why am I writing about this? Because when I talk about the terrors of global warming and the need to transition to renewable fuels, inevitably some readers react with a mixture of fear and anger.People write, ‘How will we heat our homes?’ or more pointedly ‘Why are you telling us to stop driving?’

Battling global warming is not about stopping people from diving. While conservation is important, what we really need to do is embrace cleaner fuel sources, with a sense of urgency.

It does amaze how some people cling to fossil fuels, despite the obvious hazards of this addiction. The global oil trade is a completely compromised (and that is putting it nicely) way of delivering fuel to the world’s consumers. From Big Oil, to Wall Street traders, to OPEC, we have a system that is easily rigged against the average consumer.

And then there are the environmental woes. Think of the of the Quebec rail disaster where runaway oil tankers leveled a town and slaughtered dozens. Think of the oil pipeline spills that pollute eco-systems for generations.  Or the drilling of wells that is poisoning underground water systems and fouling our air. And that list doesn’t even touch upon global warming.

If the U.S. military, the world’s biggest energy consumer, has seen the light, why can’t we? The Pentagon has no intention of grounding itself while it makes this transition. Its ships will continue to sail, its jets will soar and its soldiers will be ready to deploy as they make their planned transition.

It is the example for the rest of us to follow. Like the military we are going to need a mix of new fuels. We will need to squeeze every penny of efficiency out of the internal combustion engine, we will also need more solar and wind power to heat and cool our homes. Electric cars and buses should also be part of the energy mix, especially if our utilities continue to reduce their reliance on coal.

Most of all, like the military, we need to get moving.




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