July 12, 2010

U.S. Military already churning out green vehicles


I was surprised to hear, during retired Major General Eaton's talk on U.S. energy policy on Wednesday in Las Cruces, that the Department of Defense is already churning out successful hybrid and biofuel military vehicles.

The "Green Hornet" is a biofuel-guzzling, F-18 fighter plane.

There's also the navy "Green Fleet project," which includes a destroyer (still in development) that will also run on biofuel.

And the army has rolled out a Humvee hybrid prototype, which, like a Prius, uses minimal gas, but this prototype also has electric jacks that can deliver 50 killowatts of electricity. This would make redundant the current need to tow along a generator on an additional vehicle for missions - currently a standard process that requires an extra truck, an additional driver, and another rifleman.

The green hybrid army Humvee, Eaton points out, could significantly streamline military operations.

Apparently the going green has become an advantage to the Taliban also. "In mountainous regions of Afghanistan, oil can go for hundreds of dollars a gallon," General Eaton said, explaining that the Taliban has started using solar panels to power its communication networks.

Nearly 100 people attended General Eaton's talk. (Disclosure: I am a member of the Green Chamber of Commerce, an organization that helped to sponsor the event).

Las Cruces resident Aimee Schaefer said she walked away with "an understanding that Eaton believes the Department of Defense has to lead the way in developing renewable energy technology." Indeed, after outlining the national security issues related to fossil fuel dependence, General Eaton argued that with the DOD's huge budget, its technological inventiveness, and the sheer fact that the Department of Defense is the world's single largest consumer of fossil fuels, the U.S. military is perfectly positioned to take a leadership role in developing renewable energy technology.

Climate change

But first, General Eaton did talk about national security as it relates to climate change.

"I'm not a scientist, and I'm not pretending to be one," he said. "But I can tell you the national security implications that we're up against if what scientists are telling us is true."

Eaton went on to outline areas in the world where water shortages are likely to increase current conflict. He pointed to the mountains of Kashmir, which because of a historical land dispute are claimed by both India and Pakistan. Eaton believes the dispute (which also includes China) will become increasingly intense when the Kashmiri mountains become a desperately needed water supply for the tense border region.

"And look at our own border issues right now," he said. "You think they're bad now?" It's projected that much of Latin America, especially Peru and much of Mexico, will suffer from severe water shortages in the next century. "When the question isn't merely economic prosperity, but a matter of life and death for populations just south of us, we will experience mass migrations in the United States," he said.

Cap and trade vs. cap and dividend

The general admitted that he didn't have a full understanding of either of these bills, but he said that from what he understood, "cap and dividend seems to make a lot more sense than cap and trade." The CLEAR Actthat the general is referring to would put a cap on the use of fossil fuels. Because this would raise the price of fossil fuels and would impact family incomes, 75 percent of the money generated from carbon permits would be given back American families, with 25 percent invested in clean energy research and projects.

Eaton explained, "It's projected that it will cost every American family $150, but, the cost of not doing it over the next 10 years would be far greater."

‘This isn't about polar bears'

General Eaton summed up his talk by stressing that, for him, "this isn't about polar bears, it's about American people and our way of life. It's about not sending billions of dollars a day to countries that hate us, it's about bringing our sons and daughters home and out of danger, and it is about supporting our legislature in producing a solid bill that puts America in a better place five years from now, 10 years from now, 50 years from now."

Shaeffer said she appreciated the general's perspective, but she believes it is "up to the civilian to work to reduce our dependencies and needs, not the military."

Safety? Nuclear?

Bill McCamely asked the general about the safety and efficiency of developing green military vehicles that will probably lack the speed and reliability of their time-tested traditional models. McCamely pointed to the gas-guzzling Las Cruces police fleet - Bill had previously pushed for a hybrid-electric makeover.

In this scenario, McCamely had come to terms with the fact that police vehicles simply couldn't sacrifice speed for gas efficiency. How then, Bill wondered, could the military justify the green move?

The general pointed back to the hyper-efficient hybrid Humvee, but he acknowledged that technological developments do take time.

When a retired area physicist pressed Eaton on nuclear energy, the general responded that "nuclear energy will be needed a needed bridge to reduce our fossil fuel dependence and carbon emissions."

Elisa Cundiff is the blogger behind NMPolitics.net's Balder and Dash. E-mail her at elisa@nmpolitics.net.



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