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Why the Military Matters in the Fight for Clean Energy

Reese Neader and Daniel Goldfarb discuss military-driven innovation in technology, and how it will ease our transition away from dependence on foreign oil.
May 9, 2012, 11am PDT | Ryan Lue
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The American appetite for energy is no trifling matter. As Neader and Goldfarb point out, the United States spent $7.3 trillion to patrol the Persian Gulf between 1976 and 2007, in an effort to protect the oil supply chain – that's equivalent to a new Wall Street bailout every three years. The soaring price of oil strains military operations as much as it does consumers at home, meaning the military's traditional role as a technological innovator is as relevant as ever to the growth and security of the domestic economy.

"Over the past decades, the U.S. military has been a central driver of commercial innovation. When our armed forces needed to enhance their speed of communication in the face of a nuclear assault, we got the Internet. When they needed to increase their ability to process information, we got the microprocessor. Today, our military is facing an energy crisis that requires new breakthroughs in technology."

The Department of Defense is meeting this crisis by leading the charge in small-scale, localized energy production. "A focus on distributed generation, renewable energy, and American-made technologies is becoming increasingly ingrained in our military's decision-making, and needs to take a larger role," argue Neader and Goldfarb.

They caution that the military can't drive market demand alone. While it is the single largest consumer of liquid fuel across the globe, it still only accounts for 2 percent of total American energy consumption.

"Distributed power is about increasing prosperity at home and keeping our soldiers safe abroad."

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Published on Monday, May 7, 2012 in Good
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