Pentagon Goes Solar in War
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Oil tanker on fire in Pakistan (AP Photo)
While Congress dithers over legislation expanding the use of renewable energy, the U.S. military is moving ahead with solar-powered systems and other non-fossil fuel ways to win America’s wars.
The reasoning behind this dramatic change has to with the cost of moving fuel into Afghanistan and the losses sustained in transporting it. While it costs the Department of Defense only $1 to purchase a gallon of gasoline, it can spend as much as $400 to move that gallon to a forward operating base.
A study by the U.S. Army found that it loses at least one soldier or civilian for every 24 fuel convoys moving through Afghanistan. The U.S. Marine Corps sustained six wounded in the past three months guarding fuel trucks.
The shift towards renewable energy has already taken place in a desolate patch of Helmand Province, where a Marine company is using portable solar panels that fold up into boxes, energy-conserving lights, solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity and solar chargers for computers and communications equipment.
The other branches of the military also are joining in. The U.S. Navy now has its first hybrid vessel, the U.S.S. Makin Island, a Wasp class amphibious assault ship that can run on electricity when traveling at speeds under 10 knots. And the U.S. Air Force plans to have its entire fleet of planes certified to fly on biofuels by next year.
U.S. Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels (by Elisabeth Rosenthal, New York Times)
Sustain the Mission Project: Casualty Factors for Fuel and Water Resupply Convoys: Final Technical Report (by David S. Eady, Steven B. Siegel, R. Steven Bell, and Scott H. Dicke, Army Environmental Policy Institute) (pdf)
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