U.S. Military Battles Massive Carbon Footprint

U.S. Military Battles Massive Carbon Footprint

Image CC licensed by Flickr user The U.S. Army

The U.S. military is swiftly moving to reduce its giant carbon footprint, despite the uncertainty surrounding federal climate legislation.

Mindful of the far-reaching security implications from a warming planet and energy dependence, the Department of Defense (DOD) is leading the way in exploring green power, testing alternative fuels, and reducing its energy and water use, according to the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate, which this week published the report, “Reenergizing America’s Defense.” 

The armed forces view these moves as not only a means to save money, the report found, but to also save lives.
“The stakes could not be higher,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in a statement this week. “Energy reform will make us better fighters. In the end, it is a matter of energy independence and it is a matter of national security. Our dependence on foreign sources of petroleum makes us vulnerable in too many ways.”

The U.S. government is a huge energy guzzler, with the military responsible for 80 percent of it. The financial aspect is mind-boggling: When the price of a barrel of oil rises $10, the DOD incurs more than $1.3 billion in additional energy costs. In 2008, the DOD had an energy budget of $20 billion, but many peg the military’s true energy costs much higher.

In its Quadrennial Defense Review Report released in February, the military predicted that climate change would serve as an “accelerant” of conflict and instability, and recommended it ramp up its use of renewable energy and insulate itself from energy price volatility.

The DOD’s long-term energy goal calls for a quarter of energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. Specific examples of how the military is pursuing clean energy and reducing its impacts include:

• The Nellis Air Force Base has a solar power installation that satisfies more than a quarter of its energy, saving $1 million annually.

• The Army’s Fort Irwin, Calif., base has been designated a “net-zero plus” installation that will end its reliance on the public electric grid within 10 years. A 500-megawatt solar power plant is currently being installed.

• The U.S. Navy will launch a strike group called the “Great Green Fleet that will only use alternative fuels by 2016.

Image CC licensed by the U.S. Army.