This post was coauthored by (RET) Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip.
Osama Bin Laden is gone, but in the nearly 10 years since his attack on our country, the primary threat to our economic and national security – our dependence on foreign fuel – remains.
Rather than embracing rational energy policy to advance innovative solutions to our energy vulnerability, we’re still fueling both sides of a war: fighting terrorists who are funded partly from profits from the oil we purchase. And how are we getting our troops to the battle? Using even more oil.
Recently, we met with Pentagon officials in our role as members of Environmental Entrepreneurs, an environmentally minded group of business leaders. Like the rest of our organization, we come from different backgrounds – one of us is a retired three-star Air Force general who has witnessed first-hand the human and financial costs of our fossil fuel addiction; the other a policy advocate who works with some of the country’s most innovative business leaders in clean, renewable energy.
The military realizes the irony and the futility of relying on fossil fuels, we heard during our Pentagon visit. Every branch of the service told us they desperately desire more of the energy efficiency and clean energy technologies being developed in the private sector.
Unfortunately, many of the innovations they want and need are stuck in limbo while companies search for financing to expand beyond the research and development phase.
What the clean energy sector needs is a reliable investor and a strong market signal for their products. The Department of Defense could be an ideal fit for that role. Congress and the Obama administration should do whatever it can to encourage a new partnership between the military and private industry to advance clean energy initiatives – just as past partnerships between business and the military advanced other technologies ranging from space travel to the Internet.
Plans are already underway that could make this a reality.
The Navy, for example, plans to get half of its energy from alternative sources by the year 2020.
The Air Force plans to get 25 percent of the energy it uses at its bases from renewable energy sources by 2025. It also wants to get half of its aviation fuels from bio-fuel blends by 2016.
The Army plans to reduce greenhouse gases by 34 percent by 2020 and cut energy usage at contingency bases by 30-60 percent. That’s on top of its visionary NetZero strategy under which bases will consume only as much energy and water as they produce.
And finally the Marine Corps by 2020 will increase its use of alternative energy by 50 percent and meet 40 percent of its deployed operational demands with renewable energy. It also plans to reduce its non-tactical petroleum use by 50 percent by 2015.
The military and the private sector need to work together to break our fossil fuel dependence and develop a new, clean energy future.
Doing so will mean America will have less reason to go to war and more resources to foster peace – and along the way honor the outstanding performance by our armed forces since 9-11.
Photo by Tom Curtis.
Lt. Gen. Norman R. Seip was Commander, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern), Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. Nicole Lederer is the cofounder of Environmental Entrpreneurs (E2).