If you thought hybrids were only for tree-huggers, latte-sippers and peaceniks, consider a report released Monday by the Center for Naval Analyses. In the report, 12 high-ranking retired US military officers, representing four of the five branches of the US military, urged the Pentagon to take a leading role in eliminating the United States’ dependence on oil, and called on hybrid-electric military vehicles to immediately report for duty.
Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security comes on the heels of a 2007 report the CNA released that called climate change a “threat multiplier” to problems posed by several regions of the world that are unstable or on the verge of instability. The new warnings focus less on climate change and more on the immediate risks associated with powering the largest military in the world—and the nation it protects—with an imported, non-renewable commodity.
“At some bases, you have pick-up trucks making an astounding number of 20-mile trips. That’s a case where we could use plug-in hybrids.”
“Our dependence on foreign oil reduces our international leverage, places our troops in dangerous global regions, funds nations and individuals who wish us harm, and weakens our economy; our dependency and inefficient use of oil also puts our troops at risk,” reads the opening to the report. “We have found that the best approaches to energy, climate change, and national security may be one and the same.”
The report is less concerned with increasing the fuel economy of civilian vehicles than with reforming energy use within the armed services. The CNA’s Military Advisory Board (MAB) cites the logistical challenges of fueling a fully deployed military during wartime—and the outrageous associated costs. In some cases, the MAB found that the true cost of supplying a gallon of ordinary gasoline to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan reaches hundreds of dollars.
Efficiency on the Battlefield
“At peacetime military installations, it seems to me right now we can use off-the-shelf products,” said MAB member and retired USAF General Ronald E. Keys. “Better lighting, slow speed and hybrid vehicles, metering for buildings, insulation, better peak use tools, better partnering with companies and communities—we can do these things now.”
To truly have an impact on the cost and logistics of national defense, the most significant efficiency upgrades would have to come on the battlefield. The Army is currently developing a fleet of eight hybrid-electric Manned Ground Vehicles, and initial investments are being made in all branches of the armed forces to bring similar technologies to the front lines.
“At some of these bases, you have pick-up trucks making an astounding number of 20-mile trips. That’s a case where we could use plug-in hybrids,” writes retired Admiral John Nathman. “I think DoD wants the chance to be innovators. There’s real evidence of that, because the services are already thoughtfully moving forward on energy issues.”