Sunday, December 21, 2008

Army Energy...

I was reading in the Early Bird an opinion piece about how the Pentegon should have a vice chair for energy. At first it seemed like a silly liberal idea, and then I was a good liberal idea. Why? Well, if you think about it, military posts are, by necessity, planned communities. The problem is, they are currently very poorly planned when it comes to energy efficiency. It seems as though they are most often designed with simplicity and necessity in mind instead of the long term.

What if, instead, planners for military bases had, on each post, someone to advise the Corps of Engineers on energy efficiency. Barracks could utilize passive heating and cooling, be appropriately situated to the site to minimize seasonal impact, use grey-water recycling to water the grounds and even use alternative energy such as solar or wind.

Unlike society in general where implementing a smart grid or alternative fuel sources would be impractical, the military is already designed for it. We have no choice but to refuel our vehicles on post, where they tell us. Simply rebuild those to use alternative fuels (mantaining some petrolieum stations for tactical vehicles) and retrofit the current fleet of non-tactical vehicles and the Pentagon would, with a small amount of upfront cash, save in the long run while also reducing its carbon footprint. Or think about how much waste would be saved if, instead of plastic plates and forks and knives used by the millions in Iraq, we used the corn or soy based ones that eventually decompose*.

Really, the changes that could be made are limitless and there are some people who are forward thinking. I remember when I was at West Point, there was talk of purchasing a massive composter to help bring the waste from the Cadet Mess and Barracks area down to zero. They could even use the effluent from the sewage treatment plant, the waste from the Mess Hall and Cadet waste to create compost for the grounds.

By implementing such changes, the military would save money in the long run, create jobs, reduce its environmental impact and have a beneficial impact on civil society. So now, someone (a policy maker it seems) needs to implement the change.

*As a side note, I realize that would have an impact on poor commercial farming I've written before, everything is a trade off and nothing is a silver it's all a matter of priorities and weighing your options. I'm just recomending we finally weigh those options, instead of taking the quick, easy route.


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