Inevitably many in the renewable energy sector are licking their lips at the prospect of such lucrative contracts and since the U.S. military is the biggest consumer of energy in the world there should be plenty to go round. More important in the long-term, green tech firms recognize that the widespread deployment of their technology by the military would likely drive down production costs and help establish the industry on a more sustainable footing.
It’s a turn of events that has attracted some heavyweight support.
“We need even more reliance on the military,” former president Bill Clinton told a meeting of cleantech entrepreneurs recently. “If the military wants to build 20 facilities that are carbon-neutral within a few years, why not help him build 50? If the public fleet alone of military vehicles could make electric vehicles economic, why not give them the support to do it?”
In spite of Clinton’s powerful endorsement, not everyone is so sure. Many environmentalists have an ideological block when it comes to endorsing the take up of renewables by an organization whose main business is war. Even those who are more sympathetic to the idea are troubled by the rather sticky question of motives.
Both the military and President Obama, who is the main instigator behind this push for a green military, have been clear from the outset that the military’s only real priority in the take-up of green tech is energy dependence: in other words, freeing themselves from the bind of what Gen. James Mattis, a Marine commander in the first Iraq war, once called the “tether of fuel.”
The military’s concern is not global warming, but the prospect of Saudi Arabia or a nuclear-armed Iran holding them to ransom over an ever-dwindling oil supply.
This troubles environmentalists, who fear that rather than being the savior of the green energy movement, the military is simply exploiting clean tech as a way to stay relevant at a time of economic downturn when the necessity for such a large and costly army is being called into question.
In a recent article in the New Statesman, environmental campaigner John Naish argued that applying green technology to warfare was a step which could in fact make the world ultimately a more dangerous place. “Nuclear weapons halted the game for war hawks, as they meant that any conflict between superpowers would wreck the planet,” Naish wrote. “Green tech has revived the possibility of a mass war in which the environment isn’t destroyed.”
Or put another way. “The military is developing these technologies so that they can fight wars in a post-climate-change future,” Alex Randall, of the Centre for Alternative Technology, said in the same New Statesman article. “We would rather that funds were concentrated on technologies and policies that prevent climate change, and which thus prevent conflicts from happening.”
The strange scenario of a green military has made for some unlikely bedfellows in the arguments against it.
Concerned environmentalists have been joined by staunch Republicans, who say the efforts to go green will take money away from more vital security programs at a time when the military budget is already absorbing $487 billion in cuts. Republican senators like John McCain claim the new measures are part of Obama’s global warming agenda.
Not that these kind of arguments are much of a worry for those backing the plans. In a recent radio interview, Juliette Kayyem, a foreign affairs columnist at the Boston Globe who has served in the Obama administration, said McCain was “technically absolutely right” in his assessment of the situation.
“What is happening here is an effort to have the Pentagon, like most of the world, try to wean itself off of oil,” Kayyem told NPR. “Walmart is doing this. Target, the big supply chain, private sector companies are doing it. This is not a surprise. And so McCain thinks he’s criticizing some green agenda of the Obama administration. But what’s lost in his criticism is that this is actually being driven by the military.”
Pages: 1 2