| We are in the era of energy wars, and the military - the people called upon to do the fighting, the killing and the dying in those wars - knows it. They have known it for twenty years, since we sent our Army to kick Iraq out of Kuwait over disputed oil wells, and they have not been alone.
We have talked about it among ourselves for years. What has changed is that now it is being said publicly, not just by veterans who have been forming groups advocating the positon for a while now, but by our current military leadership as they add their voices to the calls for development of alternative energy in the United States. And it sets up an interesting question...
Who does the GOP worship more? The military, or the oil companies that own their asses?
With insurgents increasingly attacking the American fuel supply convoys that lumber across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the military is pushing aggressively to develop, test and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to transport fossil fuels.
Last week, a Marine company from California arrived in the rugged outback of Helmand Province bearing novel equipment: portable solar panels that fold up into boxes; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity; solar chargers for computers and communications equipment.
The 150 Marines of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, will be the first to take renewable technology into a battle zone, where the new equipment will replace diesel and kerosene-based fuels that would ordinarily generate power to run their encampment.
Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies - which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years - as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the huge truck convoys that haul fuel to bases have been sitting ducks for enemy fighters - in the latest attack, oil tankers carrying fuel for NATO troops in Afghanistan were set on fire in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, early Monday. In Iraq and Afghanistan, one Army study found, for every 24 fuel convoys that set out, one soldier or civilian engaged in fuel transport was killed. In the past three months, six Marines have been wounded guarding fuel runs in Afghanistan.
"There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it's practical," said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.
"Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan," Mr. Mabus said, "and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people."
He and other experts also said that greater reliance on renewable energy improved national security, because fossil fuels often came from unstable regions and scarce supplies were a potential source of international conflict.
I am going to go out on a really sturdy limb and say that the GOP will follow the money. They will ignore the brass and collect the gilt, and they won't even have to deliberate about it. Their fealty to the military was never anything more than cloying, obsequious, faux-patriotic window dressing. It was so much bunting on a Fourth of July bandstand, easily torn down and tossed in the rubbish when the party is over.
A gallon of gasoline or diesel that the Pentagon buys for just over a dollar a gallon costs as much as $400 a gallon to deliver to some of the more remote and isolated operating bases, and a fair chunk of that ends up in the accounts of the oil companies, too. It takes a lot of fossil fuel energy to deliver fossil fuels by airlift, and the number of entities that benefit from that is finite. As long as the GOP keeps recieving their gratuity from that largess, they will keep protecting the status quo and sacrificing the future on the altar of instant gratification, no matter how short-term it may be.
In this regard, they are like the monkey that won't let go of the peanut to get his hand out of the jar to get away from the tribesmen who are beating him to death with clubs.