U.S. Marines to Conduct Energy Audit in Afghanistan

The U.S. Marine Corps is checking to see how sustainable its deployment efforts are. (Photo: Marines [Public Domain]/Flickr)

The U.S. military has an enormous environmental footprint, one made even larger now that they're bogged down fighting two wars overseas. In Afghanistan alone they burn 800,000 gallons of fuel A DAY. The cost of moving a gallon of gas down the supply line into the gas tank of a deployed Humvee or helicopter can easily run over $100, making the $4/gallon we were paying last summer seem like chump change.

And then there are the human costs incurred when our enemies attack those supply lines and U.S. soldiers (or more likely these days -- private contractors) are killed or wounded.

Gen. James T. Conway, the U.S. Marine Corps commandant, thinks they could be doing a better job of using energy and has ordered, for the first time ever, an audit of the Corps' fuel use in Afghanistan.

Conway recently held an energy conference and wants to get a team of efficiency experts on the battlefield by the end of the month to look for ways to trim energy use. They've experimented with spraying field tents with an insulating foam to better keep in the cool air in the summer and warmth in the winter and want to figure out ways to cut down on the various battery packs infantry soldiers have to carry on their body- an average of nine pounds per soldier.

One thing the military has going for them is very deep pockets — they can afford to roll out renewable energy systems once they figure out the best way to do so. Both the Army and Air Force are building large solar farms to power stateside bases, and there's a growing awareness in the ranks that renewable energy makes for a better, more nimble fighting force. When there are no supply lines to attack, you don't lose soldiers to IEDs and sniper fire during resupply runs.

I'm not a big fan of war but recognize that it's not going anywhere anytime soon. If we're going to kill people to protect our country, we should do it in the greenest way possible. Knowing where the energy is going is a good first step towards cutting how much is used. I'll be watching this issue closely.