Greening the U.S. military | EarthTalk | Indy Week
Pin It

Greening the U.S. military 

Q: What is the U.S. military doing to reduce its carbon footprint and generally green its operations?

A: As the world's largest polluter, the U.S. military has its work cut out for it when it comes to greening its operations. According to the nonprofit watchdog group Project Censored, American forces generate some 750,000 tons of toxic waste annually—more than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined. Although this pollution occurs globally on U.S. bases in dozens of countries, there are tens of thousands of toxic "hot spots" on some 8,500 military properties right here on American soil.

"Not only is the military emitting toxic material directly into the air and water," reports Project Censored, "it's poisoning the land of nearby communities, resulting in increased rates of cancer, kidney disease, increasing birth defects, low birth weight and miscarriage." The nonprofit Military Toxics Project is working with the U.S. government to identify problem sites and educate neighbors about the risks.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military manages 25 million acres of land that provide habitat for some 300 threatened or endangered species. The military has harmed endangered animal populations by bomb tests (and been sued for it), reports Project Censored, and military testing of low-frequency underwater sonar technology has been implicated in the stranding deaths of whales worldwide. Despite being linked to such problems, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has repeatedly sought exemptions from Congress for compliance with federal laws including the Migratory Bird Treaties Act, the Wildlife Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

It's unclear whether the U.S. military is taking heed of criticisms in regard to its toxic pollution and endangered species management, but it is undoubtedly concerned about climate change, as its effects on the environment could lead to unprecedented natural resource wars and mass migrations of people. And reducing our reliance on potentially hostile foreign oil sources is a short-term national security imperative as well. A recent Obama administration directive calls for the DoD to draw 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. Nikhil Sonnad of the GreenFuelSpot website reports that the Army and Air Force are planning to include solar arrays on several bases in sunny western states. The Air Force is also building the nation's largest biomass energy plants in Florida and Georgia, and the Navy is building three large geothermal energy plants and funding research into extracting energy from ocean waves.

Some of the military's R&D into renewables is for battlefield applications. Outfitting troops with the capability to produce their own on-site power from solar and wind sources not only makes sourcing oil less of a necessity but also should serve to reduce casualties from fuel transport operations. More than 1,000 American troops have lost their lives delivering fuel in the past few years alone (in part because enemy combatants often use fuel trucks as attack targets), says Sonnad.

Elisabeth Rosenthal reports in The New York Times that "there is great hope that some of the renewable energy technology being developed for battle will double back and play a role in civilian life." She adds that the armed forces have enough purchasing power to create genuine markets in the nonmilitary world.

Send your questions to: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe.

  • What is the U.S. military doing to reduce its carbon footprint and generally green its operations?

Latest in EarthTalk

More by EarthTalk

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in EarthTalk

  • Thyroid cancer on the rise

    Instances of people with thyroid problems seem to be on the rise. Is there an environmental connection?
    • May 18, 2011
  • How healthy is soy?

    How healthy is soy?

    I heard that, despite its healthy image, most soy is grown using chemicals like other crops and is even being genetically modified.
    • May 11, 2011
  • The state of the air

    The state of the air

    Is air quality in the United States improving or getting worse? Is it cleaner in some parts of the country than in others?
    • Apr 27, 2011
  • More »


Twitter Activity

Most Recent Comments

Best Wrapping Plastic
All of QuickWrap's shrinkwrap is 100% virgin resin material with extremely consistent mil thickness and opacity. It …

by aayanleayanle on Recycling plastic food wrap (EarthTalk)

Comments that are not contributing

by aayanleayanle on Recycling plastic food wrap (EarthTalk)

Thank you for this article. My husband and I just got our own place and we finally have room for …

by Lyla Burns on The benefits of hydroponics (EarthTalk)

I am a grower of kenaf and would like to invite those interested in having people join with me in …

by solarentrep on Kenaf: Paper without the wood (EarthTalk)

I'm surprised the article didn't mention the fluoride-thyroid connection. Fluoride is just one of a great many environmental hormone disruptors.

by oldmagnolia on Thyroid cancer on the rise (EarthTalk)

Comments

Best Wrapping Plastic
All of QuickWrap's shrinkwrap is 100% virgin resin material with extremely consistent mil thickness and opacity. It …

by aayanleayanle on Recycling plastic food wrap (EarthTalk)

Comments that are not contributing

by aayanleayanle on Recycling plastic food wrap (EarthTalk)

Most Read

  1. Recounting Him Out (Peripheral Visions)
  2. Safe Spaces (Letters to the Editor)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation