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The Pentagon's Battle Plan Is To Go Green
07/16/2008 - By JAMES SMITH

The vote was 324-84 as the United States House of Representatives recently approved legislation allowing the Justice Department to sue members of OPEC .

The House bill blames OPEC for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices. In effect, it says that gas and oil prices in America are too high and that OPEC should therefore produce more product.
Of course, the vote is a study in congressional hypocrisy as many of the same members, who for decades have opposed drilling for oil and gas in various parts of the United States, voted in favor of holding OPEC accountable for not producing enough. The sad reality for the Congress of the United States is that with the price of a barrel of oil now in excess of $125 and prices at the gas pump near or above $4.00 per gallon, the American public can now clearly see the dubious consequences of not having developed a coherent long term domestic energy strategy.

There is no short term solution to this worldwide energy shortage, either. The energy requirements of rapidly developing nations have combined with a lack of alternative energy planning to initiate the perfect energy storm for the consumer. There is just not enough supply to meet increasing long term energy demand. However, this economic reality eludes the grasp of the Washington beltway politicians. So, Congress wastes its time voting to sue OPEC for not producing more oil. An action, that if ever implemented, would certainly drive the price of oil and gas even higher.

The long term solution to the energy problem is independence from the very oil and gas sources that Congress is trying to sue OPEC to provide more of. In fact, the best examples of a future path to energy independence can be seen in the initiatives that the U.S. military has been using to address its own energy consumption.

Historically, the military has been a huge national energy hog. It consumes 340,000 barrels of oil a day, or 1.5% of all of the oil used in the country. The Defense Department's overall energy bill was $13.6 billion in 2006 (latest figure available). In fact, the Air Force's bill for jet fuel alone has tripled to $6 billion in just the past four years.

However, the Air Force is not acting like the U.S. Congress when confronted with the spiraling cost of energy. It is actually trying to do something tangible about the problem. The Air Force has been experimenting with alternative fuels to reduce its foreign dependence on energy while reducing cost. Their plan is to create a supersonic synthetic-fuel for the B-1 bomber. The Air Force is also experimenting to make engine parts out of lighter metals, such as titanium, in order boost fuel efficiency.

Meanwhile an Air Force base called Nellis near Las Vegas has just opened one of the largest solar arrays in the U.S., a 140-acre field of 72,000 motorized panels that powers the base and sells energy to nearby communities. The Pentagon is soliciting bids for three similar arrays on other bases. Another Air Force program in Iraq is turning the trash from Air Force bases into bio fuel.

The truth is that, for the last several years, the Pentagon has sponsored various initiatives to find solutions to the increasing cost of energy. These initiatives can be seen in all branches of military services. In the Army, engineers are instructing contractors to build armored vehicles with hybrid engines. In addition, research is well under way to explore the possibility of building small nuclear-power plants on unused portions of remote army bases.

The United States military has also sponsored a futuristic plan to collect solar energy on satellites and beam it back to Earth. This space-based solar power would use solar panel arrays to gather sunlight in orbit. It would then beam power down to Earth in the form of microwaves or a laser. Energy would be collected in antennas on the ground and then converted to electricity. Unlike solar panels based on the ground, solar power satellites placed in orbit above the Earth could operate at night and during cloudy conditions.

In fact, solar-power-generating satellites could also solve supply problems in distant places such as Iraq, where fuel is currently trucked along in dangerous convoys and the cost of electricity for some bases can exceed $1 per kilowatt-hour, about 10 times what it costs in the US. This technology has the potential to provide a clean, abundant energy source and reduce global competition for oil.

The Pentagon's battle plan to combat the ever increasing price of energy is to go green. Indeed, it is the use of American creativity and ingenuity that will solve our energy crisis in the future. The Pentagon certainly gets it. The absurd Congressional law suit against OPEC shows just how much the Washington beltway politicians do not.

James William Smith has worked in senior management positions for some of the largest financial services firms in the United States for the last twenty five years. He has also provided business consulting support for insurance organizations and start up businesses. Mr. Smith has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Boston College. He enjoys writing articles on political, national, and world events. Visit his website at http://www.eworldvu.com