NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

End the Department of Defense's Green Energy Foolishness

July 10, 2012

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has presented plans for the creation of a "great green fleet" that would power ships and planes with biofuels, and where military bases would generate half of their power using renewable energy rather than conventional, fossil-fuel powered electricity. The proposal has met stiff resistance in Congress, where Republicans are questioning where the upside is of such a policy, says Kenneth Green, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Proponents of the greenifcation of the military respond that the following advantages can be reaped from Mabus' plan:

  • First, they argue that when conventional fuel prices go up, military costs go up.
  • Second, they assert that diversification would reduce the perpetual risk of supply disruption.
  • Third, they argue that the military could spur development of these new fuel technologies to make them cost competitive with conventional fuels.
  • And fourth, they argue that new technologies that make ships and planes more energy efficient would enhance mobility and performance.

Each of these arguments, unsurprisingly, is foolhardy. The most basic of analysis undermines each rationale and calls into question, how could informed policymakers advocate such policies?

  • When conventional fuel prices go up, yes, military costs go up, but so too do the prices for unconventional fuels as users around the world attempt to shift away from costly energy.
  • With regard to supply disruption, the American military faces no such danger: with need of 340,000 barrels per day, the military consumes less than one-half of 1 percent of global petroleum demand, which can easily be filled by the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
  • Further, using the military as a tool for boosting aggregate demand for unconventional energy sources is foolish and threatens to undermine the military's ability to do its job effectively.
  • Finally, arguing that the use of unconventional fuels will improve efficiency is not only without real evidence, but also fails to take into account Jevon's Paradox: if you really make it cheaper for a person to drive a mile, they drive more.

When all of the provided rationale for a public policy is struck down with only basic analysis, it becomes clear that it is little more than a political stunt. Mortgaging the military's ability to do its job properly is not a stunt that should be allowed to happen.

Source: Kenneth Green, "End the DoD's Green Energy Fuelishness," Real Clear Markets, July 2, 2012.

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