A Green Military: Saving More than Energy
The armed forces are moving quickly to become more energy efficient, as they realize that saving energy will save soldiers' lives.
The Pentagon says that it aims to "develop more energy-efficient weapons, embrace non-oil energy sources, and demand more energy-conscious behavior from the troops." This move towards energy efficiency in all the branches of the military was mandated by congressional directives and presidential orders, many dating to former President George W. Bush and expanded on by President Barack Obama.
"The cost of energy has become a critical aspect of military operations," says Anthony Cordesman, a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
The chief factor surrounding this is the cost involved in procuring and obtaining oil, which encompasses more than dollars. During World War II, supporting one soldier on the battlefield took a single gallon of fuel per day. Today, we use more than 22 gallons per day per soldier. In 2007, in order to support the 300,000 troops and contractors in Iraq, it took around 1,000 trucks a day and 35,400 troops dedicated only to moving fuel. The journey those trucks made could take weeks to deliver fuel along winding roads to remote bases, leaving them open to terrorist attacks. One out of eight U.S. Army casualties in Iraq was the result of protecting fuel convoys.
"Saving energy saves lives," says Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. "In Afghanistan, fewer supply convoys will directly relate to fewer casualties."
One major use for this fuel has been to continuously air condition the thin-walled tents used by soldiers in the desert heat that can reach 120 degrees Farenheit. The Army's Rapid Equipping Force developed a way to insulate those tents, using closed-cell spray polyurethane foam that is sprayed on the exterior of tents. This single, energy-saving step took 11,000 trucks off the roads in Iraq and, as of 2010, saved an estimated $1 billion.
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