Tina Casey has written many great articles on the military and alternative energy here on CleanTechnica. A recent article drew some flak in the comments section for her suggestion that the military’s pursuit of economical and environmentally sound energy alternatives should be reason enough for all people to pursue such alternatives. “…You linked “Support Our Troops” to the ideal of clean energy…,” observes Captivation. With more severity, MicaOliver1810 says, “So you’re not only implying that whoever doesn’t fall in line with YOUR beliefs regarding energy and the environment does not support the troops, but that a single program represents a long-term shift? Impossible….”
As you will see in a moment, for those awake, a shift in military concerns is quite “possible.” But, I think Tina may have missed an opportunity in that piece linked above. Economy and the environment may be benefits of the programs she described, but is likely not their motivating rationale and they are not the only reasons we pursue alternative fuels. Although she explained that “[military alternative fuel programs share] the need to cut the cost, risks, and operational drag caused by an over-reliance on petroleum products,” she chose not to further discuss the security and strategic reasons for alternative fuels.
Alternative fuels have been taken up as a cry by environmentalists and left-leaning activists who, with the same broad brush strokes, often paint corporations as exploitative and “bad” for people and our world. Ever in opposition, conservative interests have advocated business, the economy, and individual rights to make use of the world’s resources and tend to find themselves making bedfellows of big business, oil interests — they go against anything the left suggests they are interested in pursuing, because as long as the left is the enemy, they don’t have to look at some surprising energy facts.
The military are closer to the hired thugs of our world. They are not policemen. They are there to look tough in order to avoid conflict, and to act tough if it comes to conflict. We want them to cut through the crap and get results. They have a difficult time looking tough without a proper uniform — if their supplies are not available. It is a strategy in any conflict to cut off the enemy’s supplies, and win the day without firing a shot. It is fundamental for the military to avoid this.
The Military is a Different Kind of Consumer
One of the biggest customers for business is the military. Ours, theirs, or somebody else’s. Business is notorious for supplying all sides (and sometimes both sides) in conflicts. Security is big business, but business is not particularly concerned with people’s security. In fact, fear is a great motivator for doing business. All forms of spending are likely to go up when we are afraid of losing our life, liberty, security, or property. Advertising seeks to tell us what kind of consumer we should be.
The difference between the EU’s spending on alternative fuels and US spending is that, in the EU, there is a greater concern for losing the advantages energy provides. In the US, we are instead lulled to sleep. In all the world, only two towers have fallen with blame coming to rest on burning jet fuel, but we were told to just continue shopping. We are repeatedly told that there is no such thing as Global Warming or Peak Oil, and that if we simply let business drill, frack, fish, or farm without restriction, prices will go down and there will plenty of supplies…. We will be taken care of…. Insurance companies will see to it…. Nuclear energy will provide it….
The “Impossible” Shift in Military Priorities
But the US military “marches to the beat of a different drummer.” It does “cut through…,” makes its own assessments, and has determined as far back as 2010 that there is likely to be shortages of fuel by 2015. The military has many stated goals; however, with munitions, the military is almost in the business of polluting, and the military has never been particularly concerned with saving money as an internal aim. But if it can’t achieve a strategic goal, that is critical…. If, by one war or embargo or a well-placed weather event, supplies of oil are interrupted, their tanks, ships, aircraft, and supplies will have limited mobility.
The military recognizes that oil supplies don’t have to run out to be critical. They only have to not be there when you need them. As “impossible” as it might seem, the military is not buying the “business” as usual approach that paralyzes the rest of the country. It doesn’t share the civilian sense of inaction. Its moves toward biofueled vehicles, and camps electrified with renewable and solar energy, is in anticipation of a critical shortage of fuel.
What about Your Transportation?
So, MicaOliver1810, don’t trouble yourself with the wording of Tina’s article, sleep, listen to FOX News and the story of business rights. Because, if you ever begin to realize that the US military has something to say and alternative fuels are not a liberal or a conservative issue, but a security issue, a strategic issue, and a critical issue, you may not rest again. Perhaps then you will also come to understand that, even if an alternative fuel is more costly or a vehicle is slower and takes longer to charge, or has limited range, just the fact that it is not a foreign fuel and is a different and domestic source of energy has its own strategic rational. Then you may find yourself moving, on lightly traveled highways.
Photo Credit: Railgun Operation by US Navy