US Army seeking to cut its CO2 emissions

The US Army has begun taking steps to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2015, to comply with a 2007 order by President Bush.

An Iraqi woman walks past a US military humvee in Baghdad.

The US Army has begun taking steps to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2015 to comply with a 2007 order by President Bush.

Reuters reports that the Army's push to reduce its carbon "bootprint" is not just about protecting the climate. Using less fuel makes troops safer, Tad Davis, the Army's deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety, and occupational health told the news agency:

In the first years of the Iraq war, the long supply chain stretching from Kuwait to the battlefield put convoys at risk from makeshift bombs called IEDs. Much of the cargo was fuel, Davis said.
The more vehicles in the convoy, the more soldiers were vulnerable; so it made sense to cut down on the amount of fuel required on the front line.
"If we can reduce consumption on our forward operating bases by using renewable energy, let's say wind or solar instead of a diesel generator outside the tent ... then we can reduce the number of these supply convoys that need to come forward that are getting hit by these IEDs," Davis said.

Some 85 percent of the energy used by US forward bases in Djbouti, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan is used in air conditioning, an Army survey found. This energy use could be cut by 45 percent by spraying foam insulation directly onto tents, Davis told Reuters.

Leading the Army's push for efficiency is Ft. Carson. The Colorado mountain base, home to 18,500 troops, is the first to monitor its greenhouse gas emissions.

The Army found that the base emitted 200,000 tons of carbon in 2007, the equivalent of a town of 25,000. The tracking system, produced by California-based company, Enviance, is to be eventually used for all Army bases.

According to an LA Times story in late June, about half of Ft. Carson's emissions come from government and privately owned vehicles, and the other half comes from facilities, particularly the artillery range.

The base has taken steps to reduce its emissions by implementing "green" building methods for its barracks, recycling construction materials, encouraging telecommuting and carpooling, and even constructing a 12-acre solar array, which provides about 2 percent of the base's energy.

But the Army is not yet greening its tanks, humvees, and armored personnel carriers. Making a military vehicle more lightweight to save fuel would offer less protection to troops. And while the Army is researching hybrid technologies, there are no plans as of yet to produce hybrid fighting vehicles.

The LA Times quotes Jim Martin, executive director of the National Defense Council Foundation, who says that security must come first:

"This is a cautious first step forward being done at Ft. Carson. If push comes to shove, national security takes precedence," Martin said.

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