Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Going Green

I always enjoy when a military full of folks with conservative political values ends up acting more moderately than the Republican Party.  Easier now than ever, but still fun to watch.  The US armed forces are developing a greater interest in renewable sources of energy, finding that relying on things that burn (gas, oil) creates significant vulnerability.  The article deals with the obvious problem of getting fuel into Afghanistan, but that is not where the problem starts or stops.

Of course, domestic politics may also play a role as I doubt that biofuels requirements started anywhere but in the minds and pockets of congresspeople and senators from farming states.  That the Navy is working with algae is not only appropriate but also perhaps a nice sign that perhaps the biofuel thing is not entirely a sellout to big ag companies.  Of course, it may still be. 

To be clear, I have some major issues with ethanol, as it is not clear to me that it really is a cheaper source of energy, plus it seems to have driven up the price of corn for non-fuel stuff, like food.

Anyhow, the military is a bit slow to figure this out:
Concerns about the military’s dependence on fossil fuels in far-flung battlefields began in 2006 in Iraq, where Richard Zilmer, then a major general and the top American commander in western Iraq, sent an urgent cable to Washington suggesting that renewable technology could prevent loss of life.
Afghanistan made this even clearer given its lack of energy infrastructure and the reality that stuff has to be shipped to Pakistan and then carried over land through only a handful of passages into Afghanistan.  One striking lesson I learned in my short time in the Pentagon was the fixation on LOC's--lines of communication.  Limited LOC's into Kosovo presented some challenges that the military folks wanted to overcome.  But Kosovo was very much in Europe and secure transport was possible through Macedonia.  The concern was about what might happen to the few LOC's we had.  Now, we are actually dependent on very few, very challenged LOC's not for peacekeeping but for warfighting.  A significant vulnerability, indeed.

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