Our troops overseas have found that the fighting force of today needs a more portable, sustainable and reliable approach to fuel supply, so it’s too bad that many members of the incoming Congress have indicated their lack of support for sustainable energy. However, that hasn’t stopped the Department of Defense from moving forward with efforts to wean the U.S. military from its dependence on fossil fuels. In the latest example, an experimental U.S. Marine base has been set up in Afghanistan, designed to run almost entirely on renewable energy.
The “Green Baron” of the U.S. Marines
As reported by American Forces Press Service writer Donna Miles, “Green Baron” refers to Marine Corps energy czar Col. Bob Charette, who earned the moniker due to his previous service as a fighter pilot. Charette explains that the heavy load of electronic equiment needed by today’s Marines requires an even heavier load of generators to run it all, creating an enormous logistical challenge. Another key issue is the risk associated with fossil fuel convoys, which would be reduced if bases could run at least partly on energy scavenged on-site.
A Sustainable Forward Operating Base
Sustainable energy is becoming commonplace at domestic military facilities, but the new project represents a significant new development, because it would be the first at a forward operating base in a combat environment. The base, located in Helmand province, is occupied by Company I of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. The sustainable energy equipment consists primarily of solar powered generators along with other renewable sources, all made with existing, commercially available components. The installation was tested for 190 days at a Marine Corps facility in the U.S. and it needed non-sustainable power only for generators to run observation equipment. So far Charette reports that he is “cautiously optimistic” that the base will perform as anticipated.
Climate Science and Support for Our Troops
“Support Our Troops” is the rallying cry claimed by many a politician, but it appears that support stops at the gas tank. The Department of Defense has made repeated attempts to boost public awareness regarding the need to reduce fossil fuels in military operations and to plan for the impact of climate change on national security, and yet certain members of our incoming Congress fully intend to harass and undermine climate scientists, thwart progress and stall future action.
Image: U.S. Marines in Afghanistan by isafmedia on flickr.com.