Dave Belote 11/13/13
Ensuring our military prioritizes how it spends its money is an admirable goal. However, an article that appeared in the Washington Times last week written by Cheryl Chumley’s (Pentagon pushes 680 green projects, despite money woes, 11/6) misses several key points that explain why the Department of Defense views renewable energy and energy efficiency as warfighting priorities. Besides the fact that our military is vulnerable to the price volatility of overseas energy sources, the number of American lives lost protecting fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan numbers is well above 3,000. This is a cost that obviously cannot be calculated.
Our reliance on fossil fuel for energy also constricts the ability of our military to maneuver on the ever-evolving battlefield. The constant need to refuel, the time it takes to do so, and the fact that fuel accounts for 70% of the Army’s tonnage drastically restricts how adaptable our military can be. But the benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency don’t just come on the battlefield. Once the smart-grid technology fielded at bases like Pearl Harbor and Fort Carson matures, renewables will help ensure that a military base can continue to function on “island mode” if the grid goes down, an essential national security tool. It’s also important to note that it costs the Department of Defense $1.3 billion – nearly the entire procurement budget of the Marines – every time oil prices rise by $10.
Our military’s investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency is a win-win. It’s a win for the American taxpayer because the Department of Defense, the largest single consumer of energy in America, will cut back on costs. And it’s a win for the safety of our soldiers, who won’t spend so much time lugging around heavy batteries and fuel deep in enemy territory. Chumley’s article paints these 680 renewable energy and energy efficiency investments as foolish. The only thing foolish is that they weren’t made sooner.
Dave Belote is Vice President for Federal Business at APEX Clean Energy, Inc. He is a retired Air Force Colonel and was recently honored by the White House as a "champion of change" for his work in clean energy.