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August 31, 2011

Renewables Enlisting in the U.S. Military

United States military supports renewable energy At the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu had some frank words about renewable energy's place in the country's future. But one highlight that really stood out was Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and what he said about the military's role.

The U.S. "is getting close to a tipping point on energy" and the military will lead on this issue, said Mabus, according to Politico. "For 235 years, the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps led this country. By using alternative energy, by changing the way we use and produce energy, we're going to continue to be the most formidable, expeditionary force the world has ever known. And we're going to continue to do what the Navy and Marine Corps have always done: innovate, adapt and come out on the other side victorious." See more of what Mabus said here.

You can already feel the eye rolling from renewable-energy opponents. But such naysayers are as old as the military itself, according to a great article today in greentechmedia. In the 1850s, a U.S. Navy panel concluded that a shift in ships' energy source -- from sails to coal -- would be dangerous and expensive. Decades later, the same doubts surfaced over switching from coal to oil. "And in the 1950s, the critics once griped that nuclear-powered ships and submarines were an impractical fantasy. Now, all of the Navy's carriers and submarines run on nuclear power."

Military adoption of these energy sources have helped coal, oil, and nuclear grow into industries that have delivered power to American homes. Why not renewables?

Mabus's encouraging words are currently backed by action. The Pentagon's "Operational Energy Strategy" is a formal plan to shift military operations away from dirty energy. As the greentechmedia article notes, the Navy is experimenting with biofuel to help meet its 10-year goal of getting half its energy from renewables. As renewables get cheaper and fossil-fuel costs increase -- and if history is any indication -- the American people will likely follow suit.

-- Brian Foley


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