Retired Rear Admiral and former CIA branch chief, Robert James opines in the WSJ that the Military is taken in by fads and charlatans. Other than “The Army Wants to Join You” or George “Slam Dunk” Tenet, that appears to be a bit much. What ADM (R) James observes is that food for fuel and Amory Lovins are the latest incarnation of this. Some things I just cannot let pass.
With all due respect, Admiral, really??? We all get it, food for fuel is a bad idea. That being said, you do not make Grey Poupon out of camelina. The reference to camelina as a member of the mustard family is a ruse. "Look, they are using food!!!" In a similar vignette, a well intended Marine Sergeant conducted a cotton seed to fuel experiment in Afghanistan. This was a local “good idea” that was not sponsored by the USMC. Why? Because food for fuel is a bad idea. Next question. Fuel on the battlefield will be whatever is available; right now, fossil fuel is available. But if Kyrgyzstan starts growing camelina as a cash crop and makes fuel out of it, good for them and DLA-E can buy it and our equipment can use it. By the way, fuel on the battlefield does not cost $400 a gallon. Speechwriters, stop telling that to your bosses. Read this.
As far as worrying about the enemy seeing a windmill, you can see Camp Leatherneck from space! Of course the big, honking fuel trucks for the diesel generators wouldn't give up your position. Alternative and renewable energy is intended for big FOBs and small units. Thirty pound of batteries or ten pounds and a solar blanket (and twenty pounds of additional ammo) seems like a smart choice.
I do not know if Admiral James actually read “Winning the Oil Endgame” (WOE) all the way through or if he just dismissed it out of hand as the rantings of an “enviro”. If you read it, it is a business case argument for reducing mobility energy requirements and then providing that reduced requirement by, first, renewable fuels and then, for ground mobility, with electricity from renewable sources. Since only 1% of the energy used to move a car actually moves the driver, perhaps we could do better. Light weight, lower drag materials is what Amory talks about. Remember the Rand report quote? "…the military is best served by efforts directed at using energy more efficiently in weapons systems and at military installations." I would give WOE another read. If you would like to know what Amory Lovins thinks, read this.
Can we please elevate the discussion? We need not worry about the DOD giving up its mission in order to be "green". It is doing it to because commanders in the field are asking for it. It did not start with the Obama administration. It’s not political. The Joint Urgent Operational Needs statement that awoke the Military to this issue came from a Marine General in Iraq in 2006. As my first platoon sergeant said to me, "LT, if you are doing something stupid, you ought not do that". To imply that a commander who must deny the enemy knowledge of his location would put up a wind turbine intimates that the commander is stupid or that the reader is stupid. We old retired guys have to keep in mind that these kids out there commanding brigades are pretty sharp. Let us not use political paintbrushes to tar those who seek greater security. Dan Nolan