Foreign Policy Blogs

The Strategic Value Of Clean Energy

Recently, Robert Gates spoke of the danger of the existing divide between the military and the civilian population of America.  He said:

There is a risk over time of developing a cadre of military leaders that politically, culturally, and geographically have less and less in common with the people they have sworn to defend.

Today, The New York Times reported on an unexpected element of this divide:

Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade…

“Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan,” Mr. Mabus said, “and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people.”

He and other experts also said that greater reliance on renewable energy improved national security, because fossil fuels often came from unstable regions and scarce supplies were a potential source of international conflict.

Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary, wants 50% of the Navy’s and Marine’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2020.  The military is ahead of the rest of America on this one, which could be really bad for the world.  On the other hand, the strategic value of clean energy means that progress is more likely.  The same thing that led us to have interstate highways and the internet could also produce strides in clean energy technology.