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February 7th, 2011
Commentary and Analysis
Key Issues
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The US Department of Defense has undertaken ambitious measures to green its operations, despite claims of ineffectiveness and the threat of budget cuts. Past military investment in innovation suggests that the Pentagon's focus on reducing fossil fuel consumption and increasing on-site power production could yield substantial benefits in terms of civilian energy use, but it will take high upfront costs and several years before such benefits are able to be realized. In this Energy and Climate Brief, Garten Rothkopf examines what the US military has done to become greener, as well as how those efforts could have an impact on the broader energy market.


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The U.S. military has made greening its operations a major priority in recent years, investing heavily in alternative fuels, onsite renewable energy generation equipment, and overall improved energy efficiency.  However, the military’s efforts have drawn their fair share of controversy.  A recent report by the RAND Corporation criticizes the military’s alternative fuel program as costly and ineffective.  Also the Department of Defense faces nearly $100 billion in operational budget cuts, with several military officials questioning if the time is right for risky investments in unproven technologies.  The debate has even caught the attention of those outside the military.  Given the size and influence of the armed forces purchasing power, its decision to invest in green technologies will have large spillover effects and promote the growth of these industries in commercial markets.  Today’s GR Energy and Climate Brief analyzes the military’s current green efforts and looks at its potential to catalyze developments in emerging industries.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Energy

Motivating Factors

The motivation for the military’s reforms stems from many of the same reasons as in other sectors; improved efficiency, less dependence on foreign fossil fuel sources, and a cleaner environment.  Greening operations also has the potential to dramatically reduce costs.  Today the U.S. military is the world’s largest single user of energy, spending 3.6 billion on its facility energy use, and $9.6 billion on fuel for vehicles and other equipment. In most cases, improving the efficiency of its operation has immediate benefits. For example, the Army invested $95 million for an insulating foam spray to be used on temporary inefficient structures in Iraq. 

Full article here.

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Garten Rothkopf
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