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USA: Why the Military Hates Fossil Fuels

A strange thing has happened in the politicization of climate change: Oil has become something conservatives must love, while things like energy efficiency and renewable energy have become stand-ins for liberal politics, government intervention, taxes, take your pick. So it is that people are always surprised to learn that one of the biggest proponents of green technology in the United States is that most conservative of organizations, the U.S. military. Reducing energy use, in particular this country’s dependence on fossil fuels, has become a priority amongst all branches of the military pretty much since we got involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, and given that the Department of Defense is the single largest consumer of energy in the country (spending about $4 billion per year on facility energy consumption), it has started with its own house.

Time and again top military leaders have spoken out against our dependence on oil as a matter of national security. The thing you need to remember about the military, though, is that it’s comprised more of doers than talkers. To wit, the Department of Defense has been making major investments of time and money in green technology of various kinds over the last several years, and has been executing plans to improve efficiency and reduce energy usage far faster than any of the countless state, local and federal programs we hear so much more about.

The work has begun, as any resource optimization plan should, with efficiency. In addition to the Air Force’s energy conservation program, the DoD is researching and testing several technologies through its Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP). Concurrently, the Army and Navy have both kicked off net zero programs, aimed at reducing not only energy use on bases, but also water use and waste. The Navy is aiming for 50 percent of its bases to have net zero energy consumption by 2020. Compared to any states renewable energy portfolio standard or energy efficiency program that is extremely aggressive, but the Navy is confident it will get it done.
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