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Military adapts to changing environment

By Mike O'Brien
On November 27, 2012

For nearly 10 years, the United States has been involved in a war on terror with Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The U.S. has been fighting Al-Qaida and the Taliban, two extremist sects known for kidnappings, attempted terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian deaths in both their home countries and abroad.

In order to effectively carry out the mission in the region, the U.S. Army has updated its environmental strategy for the missions in the Middle East. This has not been done since the 1992 update, which followed the end of the Persian Gulf War. 

The new environmental strategy, which was originally enacted in late 2004 and has since undergone subsequent changes with the Obama administration, pledges that the U.S. Army will become more environmentally friendly in future years and reduce it's reliance on petroleum and oil based fossil fuels.  

The U.S. currently spends roughly $15 billion each year to provide the military with fuel for its operations across the world. This fuel powers military bases, tanks, jeeps and more. 

The push for green and sustainable energy throughout the military is not just to save money, but to save the lives of the soldiers tasked with protecting the envoys.

A CNN Money report from 2011, in correspondence with the Department of Defense, reported nearly one in eight soldiers were killed or injured escorting fuel envoys in the Iraq War between 2003 and 2009. 

The goal of the transition is promised to reduce dependency on oil by 50 percent by the year 2025 and increase usage of sustainable energy. It has been met with support from the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress.

Recently, the White House has pledged at least $7 billion to the United States Army Corps of Engineers in order to research and implement new forms of energy. 

In coming years solar, wind, biomass and geothermal energy forms are expected to become more prominent in military operations. 

GOP members of Congress claim the plan is a waste of taxpayer dollars, even going as far as to propose a law that prevents the purchase of alternative fuels that are more expensive than fossil fuels. 

"To have the military, whose sole job is to defend this country, spending extra money simply on flying their airplanes with fuel that's available at a cheaper price, again on these restraints and the resource restraints that we find ourselves in, makes no sense to me," said Representative Mike Conway, the Republican from Texas who introduced the bill.

New biofuels are also currently being researched for military aviation operations. The biofuel program is looking to develop a newer, renewable jet fuel to replace the current petroleum-based version.

There are hopes the new fuel will be "drop in," or planes will require no modification to fuel cells. The research is still in its preliminary stage.

"I think it's a good thing," said Major Dan Fletcher of Brockport's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC). "If you destroy a place, and don't build it back up, you'll get kicked out by the natives."

According to, the U.S. Military uses more oil per day than 170 nations in the world. 

This includes Pakistan, a nation with a population of nearly 166 million people.

Though data is not released by the Department of Defense in order to protect national security, most analysts, including at, believe the military uses roughly 400,000 to 800,000 barrels a day.

 If the estimates are correct, the U.S. military would exceed Pakistan in daily usage of oil, but also countries such as Turkey. 

The military has recently seen a transition of their leader's thoughts on the topic, thanks in part to the fact that the American populace has begun to turn the tide on acceptance of environmental issues, including global warming.

 "The military tends to drift with social issues," Fletcher said in regards to the change in military ideology on the subject.

President Obama has been a key proponent of green energy both in daily life and in the military.

 His re-election will most likely bring more changes within the armed forces in the coming years, namely in the implementation of solar and wind energy in daily use, despite the opposition that it may face.

"We aren't gods," said Fletcher. "If we don't take care of our planet we'll be taken off, like the dinosaurs."

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