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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Why The U.S. Military Is Fully Backing Renewables

Solar Military

The renewable energy theme has had many develop a knee-jerk reaction – pro or against – simply because of the sheer attention it is being given. In the renewables narrative, the aspect of how green energy will save the planet from the harmful results of human activity seems to take priority most often. There is, however, another aspect that has been relentlessly highlighted by the U.S. army in recent years: the practicality of green energy.

A decade ago, opponents of renewable energy argued that it is much more expensive than fossil fuels. In many places it is still more expensive, but not everywhere: in the U.S., for example, the price of solar power has been falling steadily and is being increasingly adopted by the army.

The core concern is energy security, of course. The military is the biggest single consumer of fossil fuels in the U.S., and senior army officials, including President Trump’s Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, are acutely aware of the drawbacks of this dependence on oil.

Reuters recalls the Al Quaeda attack on the USS Cole back in 2000, which took place during a refueling stop, and which resulted in 17 casualties. Clean Techica quotes former servicemen who have gone into the solar industry after the end of their military careers, having seen first hand the destruction that the war for resources brings.

One serving officer sums it up perfectly. According to Colonel Brian Magnuson, the chief of the expeditionary energy office of the Marine Corps, “Our tag line is expeditionary energy. We don’t do green. We need to go further on the same amount of energy we have or less.” Related: Saudi King Goes East In Search Of Friends And Cash

It’s as simple as that: renewable energy is more secure, precisely because it is renewable. It is also cheaper, when you factor in all the risks associated with an army’s dependence on fossil fuels, including fuel supply convoys that make for an easy target, and energy shortages that can compromise missions.

The renewables industry has been more than welcoming to this drive for greater energy security, coming up with portable solar panels and power-generating backpacks, among others. What’s more, the industry is creating jobs thanks to the army’s growing appetite for its produce.

Some wonder if Trump’s anti-renewables stance could throw a wrench in the army’s renewable energy plans. That’s highly unlikely, however you look at it. True, Trump has expressed his dislike for green energy. True, he is a staunch advocate of the fossil fuels industry. But his main argument is that this industry is creating jobs. Well, so is the renewables industry, and job creation is sure to take priority over the type of industry responsible for it. Related: Despite Promises To Cut, Iraq Raises February Oil Exports

Then there’s the issue of national security. According to military sources, renewable energy can only enhance national security. It will also help bring down costs at the Department of Defense. Again, lower costs and greater national security is unlikely to be a point to be argued with by any serving president.

By 2020, the U.S. Army plans to get a fifth of its energy from renewable sources. Between 2011 and 2015, the army tripled the number of its renewable energy projects and doubled the amount of renewable energy generation, at the end of the period producing enough green power to power more than a quarter of a million homes.

The message that the Army is sending rings true: We don’t care about climate change. We care about security and renewable energy is helping us get it.


By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Dan on March 05 2017 said:
    Well a convoy shipping solar panels is the same target as one shipping oil. Now we have to worry about batteries making us sick unless we hide the California report that scares silly-con valley.
  • Tom on March 05 2017 said:
    I'm intrigued by the sentiment of the article. But I'm wondering if there are more facts / figures to back the article or if this is just about a generic intent?

    We all know the articles how many thousand lives and 1 billion USD were lost to provide air conditioning for tents in Afghanistan. We all know that the key issue about supply convoys is, that they need to occur regularly and that burning fuel is a horrible thing to protect. And we know that in theory batteries and solar panels (who can operate in silence and without the need for resupply) will allow the military to be safer and further away from supply routes.

    However, do we have facts? Do we know if the military is shifting out generators for solar? Are they worried about fuel efficiency of their vehicles? I heard a lot of talk that seems to make sense. I haven't seen the numbers that indicate action...
  • Lee James on March 06 2017 said:
    RE: National security

    Probably left unsaid by U.S. military is that some bad actor states use petroleum revenue to fund considerable weapons production and foreign adventures, similar to our own -- the difference being that we would prefer to come home. But the West is still dependent.

    Russia and Iran have economies reliant on petroleum, and the West is still unfortunately very dependent on their oil. Even the U.S. still imports about as much net oil as what we get using expensive unconventional extraction.

    Best to earnestly transition away from oil dependency, in whatever way we can, soon as we can.
  • James H. Rust on March 09 2017 said:
    Using renewable fossil fuels that are more expensive than out abundant, inexpensive, and geographically distributed coal, oil, and natural gas is the height of stupidity. These policies were forced on the military by the Obama Administration because they were fools. Surely this policy will not go forward with the Trump Administration.

    The attack on the Cole was due to its refueling in a dangerous area. This should not take place in the future. Naval ships can run for years on nuclear power. However, this energy source is only practical for very large ships. Destroyers will not run on solar panels and wind is too unreliable. Remember we used renewable wind as our sailing propulsion prior to the use of steam by the first steamship Savannah in 1809.

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