Inside the Military's Green Energy Mission

Sat Jul 23, 2011 1:00am EDT

Editor's Note: This is the latest episode of Energy NOW!, A video program dedicated to energy and environmental issues. You can see the full video at the bottom of this post, and archived episodes are online at EnergyNow.com.

First up this week, the U.S. Department of Defense spends $15 billion a year on energy, mostly on oil-based fuels. Transporting that fuel to the battlefield puts lives at risk, so the military is finding ways to save energy and use alternatives to oil. Correspondent Lee Patrick Sullivan checks out a fighter jet that runs on biofuels and a warship with a hybrid engine.

Next, the sun is a big part of the Air Force and Army's plans for alternative fuels. Lee Patrick learns how the Air Force is using the largest solar array in the Western Hemisphere to help reach a 20 percent renewable-energy goal by 2020. Lee Patrick also dons full battle gear to find out why soldiers are replacing heavy batteries and generators with smaller, lighter ones. He also takes a ride in a prototype extended range electric vehicle and unrolls a "solar blanket" for charging electronics in a war zone.

This week's "Energy Then" takes us back to World War I and the first American-made tank. The Holt Gas-Electric Tank relied on four-cylinder diesel engines to power two electric motors that move the giant tracks. The tank never actually saw combat because it moved slowly and the war ended before improvements could be made.

Then, what would happen in the U.S. if a large share of the world's oil supply was suddenly cut off? Former U.S. officials tried to answer that question in the "Oil Shockwave" simulation. The scenario: an attack on an oil processing plant in Saudi Arabia sends crude oil prices skyrocketing, and further political unrest leads to military action. Former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister are among the players, filling the roles of cabinet officials who must deal with the unfolding crisis.

Finally, in this week's "Hot Zone," a viral online video that could be strengthening the case of climate scientists. The gigantic iceberg floating off the coast of Canada comes from a much larger chunk that broke away from Greenland's Petermann glacier almost a year ago. It's one of several smaller fragments that have been breaking off and floating away.

 

Photo CC-licensed by Spigoo.

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