***Update - 3/10/11 - Looks like the U.S. military is taking some meaningful steps in this area. Check out these battery solar hybrid generator systems they're deploying over in the middle east!!!
Chapter 14 of Thomas Friedman's new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded is titled "Outgreening al-Qaeda". If there is any one chapter in the whole book that demonstrates how clean energy fits into the big Sustainable picture, this is that chapter. Mr. Friedman states in one of the first paragraphs:
One of the most dangerous tasks for marines in that area was driving trucks loaded with ten-gallon tanks of diesel out to isolated observation posts to run the mobile generators that were powering their air conditioners, radios, and other equipment. Either there was no electricity grid or it was not functioning in these remote areas, and the fuel convoys had become big fat delicious target for Iraqi insurgents with roadside bombs.
Of all the long-term threats caused by our reliance on the current "dirty fuel" system - Global Warming, air you have to chew, petro-dictatorships - I can think of no other issue that better demonstrates the ability of clean energy to directly and immediately save lives.
Luckily the military has some help. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is "focusing on power sources that reduce both military's reliance on petroleum and soldiers' logistics burden." From their website on Tactical Energy Independence:
DARPA’s efforts in sustainability and a reduced logistics footprint will help to “minimize the tail while maximizing the teeth.”
It's hard to imagine a better target for an insurgent's roadside bomb that a convoy loaded down with diesel fuel. That's basically a bomb just waiting for some enemy to light the fuse. The sooner we can lower the burden of transporting hydrocarbons around the desert, the sooner we can focus on winning the mission at hand.
And considering our reliance on oil was undoubtedly a factor in our involvement in the desert to begin with, I can think of no better image to describe our current situation than that of the tail wagging the dog.
The quicker we can bring clean energy up to speed and provide much needed power to our troops, the quicker we can stop the tail from wagging the dog, and the quicker the dog can start maximizing its teeth.
(part 2 of this blog will follow shortly)