Image credit: Jamie Henderson, used under Creative Commons license.
I was pleased to see the British army investing in beekeeping as an alternative to opium farming in Afghanistan. But that spending pales into insignificance compared to the money the US military is planning to plow into clean energy in coming decades. Brian already wrote about the potential for the military to bring solar to the masses, Matthew talked about $3.6bn in stimulus money that would be used to green the military, and now the army has launched a dedicated clean energy task force that will invest as much as $7.1bn in the next 10 years in renewables through the private sector.Business Green reports that the newly formed Energy Initiatives Office (EIO) Task Force is charged with finding private sector partners to reach ambitious clean energy goals. With a target already identified of using renewables for a quarter of its energy needs by 2025, the army is acutely aware that it needs to invest in large-scale power projects, and it needs the help of the private sector to do so. The move could have huge strategic, economic and ecological impact, as Business Green explains:
The federal government is the nation's largest energy consumer, accounting for about 1.5 per cent of use. And the Department of Defense is the biggest driver behind that energy consumption, responsible for about 80 per cent.
"The Army (uses) about 21 per cent of that 80 per cent, so we view ourselves as a target-rich environment in terms of trying to a better job with taxpayer dollars, trying to do a better job in our stewardship of the environment, and perhaps most importantly, in terms of force protection and doing a better job of reducing our reliance on traditional fossil fuels," McHugh said.
Doubtless there will be those that deride the concept of a "greener military" as an oxymoron. But given the urgent task of scaling up clean energy, and given the likelihood that all nations will keep on spending on military for many years to come, it does seem like this is an opportunity to create serious leverage for scaling up renewables.
Given the well known impact of economies of scale, moves like this can only help continue the ferocious cost reductions seen in solar and other renewables recently. And that should ensure a safer, cleaner and more peaceful world for everyone.