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The Military Is Going Green. It Has To.

Pakistani police officer stands guard on still smoldering oil trucks in Shikarpur, southern Pakistan on Friday Oct. 1, 2010. Aaron Favila/AP hide caption

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Aaron Favila/AP

The images of burning fuel trucks that were carrying fuel destined to NATO forces in Afghanistan brings home just how dependent the US military is on fossil fuels, and how fragile that supply line can be. The military has been trying to reduce its reliance on gas for a few years now. As the New York Times reports this morning it has become a strategic necessity.

“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.

“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.”

Those massive fuel convoys have a cost that can be measured in lives. One Army study showed that for every 24 convoys that moved, one person lost their life.

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The importance of reducing dependence on fossil fuels is being felt in every branch of the military. For the past few months the Air Force has been testing biofuels in aircraft. And not just slow transports, they want to certify the whole fleet, up to and including the F-22 Raptor to fly with renewable fuels.