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7 Energy Facts About U.S. Defense on Veteran's Day

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By Alex Straub and Michael Timberlake

With the excitement of a long weekend it’s easy to lose sight of what this extra vacation day is really about. Today, Veteran’s Day, offers a specific opportunity to express our gratitude for the sacrifices military men and women make every day across the country. As one of our country’s most vital valuable assets, the military and its missions and tactics are frequently discussed and praised.

But often left unnoticed is the military’s growing leadership on the energy front.

U.S. Army members in front of a solar panel in Afghanistan. Photo credit: Pacific Lamp Wholesale

We trust the military to protect our nation, family and friends, so it should come as no surprise that we often seek its guidance in areas outside of combat. The Hummer’s hulking 8 miles per gallon transition from the battlefield to civilian life is just one (fairly regrettable) example. However, after the Hummer’s short-lived popularity (one would have to assume was largely due to the skyrocketing cost to fill up its 32-gallon tank), the U.S. Army and Navy, the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other military organizations have made advancing their energy efficiency a central objective.

A few highlights of these commendable efforts include:

  • In 2011, the DOD began implementing smart electricity meters in U.S. Navy buildings to gather information to reduce energy usage.
  • The Navy’s 1 Gigawatt Task Force has the goal of generating 1 gigawatt of renewable energy by the end of the decade. President Obama called it, “one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history.
  • The Army adopted a “Net Zero Energy” program in April 2013 with the goal of producing the same amount of energy that is used by the organization.
  • Most recently, the Department of Veterans Affairs was ranked number 2 on the Top 10 Federal Government Partner List by Green Power Partnership for making green power purchases resulting in emissions reductions and electricity savings.
  • The DOD also plans to buy 92,000 hybrid and electric vehicles over the next seven years to trim its nearly $20 billion fuel bill.
  • In August, the DOD allocated $4.3 million toward technological initiatives aimed to boost efficiency out in the field, including reducing drag on aircraft, developing tactical microgrids standards to speed adoption, and reducing the quantity, weight, and reliability of batteries used by troops.
  • Integrating generators into a variety of military electric vehicles (both combat and non-combat) that can supply electricity to the grid and provide their battery power to numerous operations.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) is just one politician who believes efficiency is important for the Armed Forces and has championed those efforts over his Senate career. At a Senate Energy Committee Hearing in 2012 he said, “[energy conservation in the military] is about saving money … and saving lives.” Warner understands that increasing energy productivity improves military capability, lowers costs, and increases unit self-sufficiency and performance while protecting supply lines—which ultimately increases safety for our soldiers.

By implementing greater energy efficiency practices, government agencies, businesses, and individuals can see lower energy costs and increased performance in a similar way. Active military personnel in combat zones see the impact of energy efficiency practices more quickly and directly than the average civilian who isn’t necessarily worried day to day about the risks of transporting fuel or the energy needed to maintain essential operations—but the benefits of adopting these practices are real and tangible nonetheless.

Energy efficiency has clearly become a top priority for our Armed Forces, but it’s high time we move beyond praise and follow the lead of our men and women in uniform by embracing energy efficient technologies, policies, and practices at home as well as on the battlefield. 

Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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