A Senate hearing on Tuesday examined how the United States armed forces are working to become more energy efficient and, in the process, protect military personnel. "The military has developed innovative solar-powered bases with energy storage that can diminish or eliminate the need for convoys, reducing the risks to our troops," said Sen. Bernie Sanders. "With the Department of Defense being the largest single consumer of energy in the United States, energy efficiency and sustainable energy investments at military facilities also create savings for taxpayers," Sanders added.
"The military understands that global warming is real, but for the military investing in energy efficiency and sustainable energy is not just about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is about protecting our soldiers in the field, where estimates show that one of every 24 fuel resupply convoys in Afghanistan resulted in a U.S. casualty, and one of every eight soldiers killed in Iraq was protecting a fuel convoy.
The hearing was held under the joint jurisdiction of Sanders' Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee and a separate oversight panel chaired by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse.
"A quiet transformation is taking place in our armed services, a clean energy transformation," said Whitehouse. "Our men and women in uniform are working to reduce demand for fuel convoys through enemy territory, make our military bases less dependent on the grid, and test alternative jet fuels that will lessen our dependence on Middle East oil... Moreover, the U.S. military understands that greenhouse gas pollution from these fuels is driving global climate change, and that this change has major security implications."
Witnesses testifying at the hearing were Leslie Gillespie-Marthaler, senior advisor at the Office of Research and Development at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Richard G. Kidd IV, deputy assistant secretary for Energy and sustainability at the United States Army, Thomas W. Hicks, deputy assistant secretary for energy at the United States Navy, and Kevin Geiss, deputy assistant secretary for energy at the Air Force.
In October 2009, President Obama issued an executive order calling for the federal government to undertake energy efficiency efforts. Federal agencies set a number of sustainability targets, including greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets which amount to a 28 percent reduction below 2008 levels by 2020. The Department of Defense pledged the most ambitious reductions of any agency.
Just last week, the Army announced it was partnering with industry to deploy up to $7 billion in renewable energy resources - wind, solar, and geothermal - on its bases. This announcement is the Army's latest effort to meet its goal of producing 25 percent of its energy needs through renewable energy by 2025. The Air Force is an award-winning member of the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnerships Program. About 194 renewable energy projects on 71 Air Force sites were either in operation or under construction last year. The Navy has set a goal of producing at least 50 percent of its onshore energy needs from alternative sources by 2020.