The military offer numerous opportunities for the application of green, clean and sustainable technology to not only have an enormous environmental impact, but an economical one as well. Without getting into the exact fuel usage of the US Armed Forces for fear of divulging confidential information on our capabilities and limitations, suffice to say that between generators, transportation assets and heating and cooling troops in the 3rd world countries we like to conduct combat in, the US military uses an extraordinary amount of fuel and other petroleum-based products.
Generators run 24 hours a day and daily scheduled refills are a norm for units in a deployed setting. Large trucks for moving equipment and personnel get very low gas mileage and are certainly not up to the highest standards in terms of emissions. There are pieces of equipment in the US military arsenal that actually takes between 20-50 gallons of gasoline, simply to start them up…
What sort of impact does this have on our mission, our ability to fight battles? Well enormous logistical planning is a constant as re-supply missions for fuel, water and parts consumes a very large part of many military units workdays. The layouts of forward positioned bases are always planned with an eye on the ease or difficulty to provide these daily fuel requirements and thus make us more predictable as we are handcuffed to certain terrain features and distances from main hubs of supply.
Many of these diesel and gas guzzling pieces of equipment are reliable to some degree, however one must ask, is there a trade-off between reliability and the logistical strain required to maintain them? What if equipment with fewer moving parts and less combustion related components were just as reliable, yet without the need for petroleum? Now that would create some considerable benefits for the military that would allow us to control an even greater advantage over our enemies.
There are a multitude of possibilities available for green tech to make its way onto the battlefield, some of the most notable include spray on solar panels that a forward operator can apply to any surface to charge electronics during the day allowing for fully charged tools for night operations, renewable energy generators that are powered by a combination of solar, wind and gravity as well as electric and bio-diesel vehicles. Also of note the immersion of more and more unmanned vehicles and aircraft can make the introduction of alternative energy safer as a failure of such energy source will only stress the back-up power system (diesel, gasoline or electric) and not the human operator.
Also a more futuristic yet highly exciting technology advance would be the introduction of a battery pack powered remotely via microwave energy vice a grid. This would allow soldiers to become individual energy grids capable of powering all of their own gear and electronics without the fear of a mass loss of such a grid by enemy electronic warfare.
All of these ideas and more are in varying stages of development, implementation and experimentation within not only the US Military, but in many NATO forces as well. This is a promising look ahead to a day where the military may finally put down the nozzle and go green, not just for the sake of environmental benefits, but because it is a more practical and smarter way to engage in combat with the enemy. Nothing like a tactical advantage that does the Earth some good!