The Lean Green Fighting Machine

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Good story in this morning’s New York Times on how our military’s thirst for fuel in Afghanistan — and the militants’ success in blowing up trucks carrying it there from Pakistan — is an Achilles’ heel. The Times also focuses on the green push from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, as we did last April.

The Army this morning details what it is doing to become more eco-friendly, to honor October’s Energy Awareness Month. “Energy is both a force multiplier and a vulnerability,” the service says. Current plans call for California’s huge Fort Irwin to be energy-independent by 2017 thanks to a 500-megawatt solar energy plant. “The Army is also replacing older non-tactical vehicles with 4,000 electric and 700 hybrid vehicles, saving of 100,000 metric tons on carbon dioxide emissions and 7.5 million gallons of fuel over six years,” it adds.

Fuel bladders like this hold 50,000 gallons and are vital to powering the U.S. war machine/DoD

But these items make up only the tip of the iceberg (we try to avoid cliches like the plague around here). The military’s quest to go green is actually much broader, as I detailed in the following 2007 file. Despite global warming, the U.S. military continues to move at a glacial pace, so it remains timely.

There’s a sign I filched from the Pentagon a decade or so ago sitting above my desk. “Smoking Prohibited in the Pentagon,” it reads. The notion of the military — preoccupied with killing — worrying about long-term health has always seemed odd.  But it’s fair to suggest that attitude also permeates the U.S. military’s view on climate change and related issues like energy efficiency and alternative fuels. As the Pentagon is now spending close to $2 billion a day, rounding errors funneled to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency may seem vital and important. But they’re really seen as little more than window dressing by many in uniform.

But that’s not so strange. The military’s job, fundamentally, is to win wars. And no one is better at killing the enemy — when the enemy can be clearly identified — than the American military. But its chances of success shrink when the enemy is an irregular guerrilla force, and melts further still when the “enemy” is something like climate change. “It’s so much easier to mobilize action around a bad guy — Saddam or Hitler — because when there’s a public, human face to the enemy it’s a mobilizing tool. How do you mobilize against nature?” Sherri Goodman, who during the Clinton administration served as the Pentagon’s highest-ranking environmental warrior ever, tells Time. “It’s also unlike the Cold War where we spent billions preparing for this bolt-out-of-the-blue nuclear attack that was going to happen at a specific point in time — this is a more gradually occurring chronic threat that’s harder for mobilize around.” So, vexed by a pair of wars, few in the military see retooling to deal with the challenges of climate change near the top of the Pentagon’s to-do list.

So when too many soldiers were being killed by roadside bombs in Iraq, fuel efficiency took a back seat as the military ordered thousands of heavy Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to be sent to the theater. Yet at the same time, Marine Major General Richard Zilmer sent an unusual request to the Pentagon from his post in western Iraq. He wanted renewable energy sources — solar panels and wind turbines — dispatched to his bases to cut down on the number of fuel convoys that would have to travel through insurgent-held territory. “We’ve got to do something to control our logistics train,” Pentagon scientist Alan Shaffer says. “Being more energy-efficient puts fewer kids lives at risk.”

Climate change affects the U.S. military in two ways. First, there is a growing sense that it will have to husband its resources more carefully. On one side of the ledger, nearly three-quarters of the weight transported by an Army unit on the move is liquid — predominately fuel, but with water also a major cargo component. Reducing the thirst for fuel is a key way of making a military force more light, which makes it more lethal. In August, the Pentagon ordered its forces to train more on simulators, saving fuel. The Defense Department has launched several efforts to wean itself off of what it calls “POL” — petroleum, oils, and lubricants — in favor of alternative fuels.

On the other side of the ledger, the changes being wrought by climate change are going to play an increasing role on the threats the U.S. military faces. Climate is playing a role in the crises in Darfur and Somalia — causing famine that triggers migration that causes unrest that can ripen into conflict — and this trend is only going to get worse. Rising sea levels could swamp U.S. Navy bases as well as the Tampa headquarters of U.S. Central Command. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being commanded from that HQ, which sits barely above sea level at the tip of a peninsula that juts into the Gulf of Mexico. “When the Arctic becomes a transportable sea, does that mean the Navy is going to have an Arctic fleet?” wonders retired Marine general Anthony Zinni, who served as chief of U.S. Central Command from 1997 to 2000. “If there’s land loss, some of our naval bases could be in jeopardy — the Norfolks, San Diegos and Camp Lejeunes,” Zinni told Time December 12. “We need to know what the alternatives are.”

There’s been no shortage of recent studies examining the issue. In November alone, there were two: the Council on Foreign Relations issued “Climate Change and National Security — An Agenda for Action,” written by Joshua Busby, a professor at the University of Texas’ LBJ school. And a team of experts, led by former Clinton assistant defense secretary Kurt Campbell, issued “The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change,” under the auspices of a pair of Washington think tanks, the Center for International and Strategic Studies and the Center for a New American Security.

But the most significant report on the topic issued in the past year was “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change” issued by the CNA Corp. That 63-page report, issued in April, is important for several reasons. First of all, it wasn’t published by some do-gooder think tank. The CNA Corp. — the CNA stands for Center for Naval Analyses — began in 1942 with a mission of defeating the Nazi U-boat threat. It is basically one of several Pentagon-subsidized think tanks tackling key issues facing the country. Secondly, it wasn’t written primarily by out-of-power Democrats and academics, like the other two. Instead, it was written by CNA’s military advisory board, a high-powered collection of 11 retired three-and-four-star officers. Finally, it was overseen by Sherri Goodman, executive director of the military advisory board and CNA’s general counsel. She’s significant because during the Clinton administration she served in the Pentagon as deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security from 1993 to 2001. That position didn’t exist before the Clinton administration and it doesn’t exist today in the Bush Pentagon — it is part of the portfolio of the deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment. In the ways of Washington, that’s a demotion for the environment by the Bush administration’s Pentagon.

Despite their differences, all three reports reached similar conclusions:

— “Projected climate change poses a serious

threat to America’s national security,” the CNA report said.

— “Climate change presents a serious threat to the security of the U.S. and other countries,” the Council on Foreign Relations study said.

— “Global warming poses not only environmental hazards but profound risks to planetary peace and stability as well,” the CSIS-CNAS report said.

The CNA report was dire, especially to old Pentagon hands who found it a little alarmist given the uniformed bona fides of its authors. “The predicted effects of climate change over the coming decades include extreme weather events, drought, flooding, sea level rise, retreating glaciers, habitat shifts, and the increased spread of life-threatening diseases,” it said. “These conditions have the potential to disrupt our way of life and to force changes in the way we keep ourselves safe and secure.” The report termed climate change “a threat multiplier” and said it could “seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states.” And the report noted the threat is multi-pronged: “Unlike most conventional security threats that involve a single entity acting in specific ways and points in time, climate change has the potential to result in multiple chronic conditions, occurring globally within the same time frame.”

Gordon Sullivan, a retired four-star Army officer and former Army chief of staff, chaired the panel that did the CNA study. “We concluded the trends are not good here,” he told Time December 18. “We’re not exactly sure that all the numbers are provable, but the trends indicate to us that we as a people do have a challenge going forward, and if we don’t pay attention to it and learn as much as we can about these climate challenges, were liable to be surprised in ways we don’t like.”

Sullivan doesn’t think that the Bush administration has given the topic the attention it warrants. “The community of nations must come together to address this on a global basis,” he said in the interview. “I understand that the government of the United States has another position on the subject — so be it.” He thinks Washington should have “reached some kind of an accommodation so that the United States was a part and parcel of an effort to limit hydrocarbons in the air” instead of walking away from the Kyoto accord. “We need to be serious players in the game. This is the kind of an issue that needs some organizational horsepower because it doesn’t appear that the problem is going away.”

Several of the military officers who joined Sullivan in writing the 63-page CNA report have testified before congressional committees and other venues since issuing their report. “I must admit I came to the advisory board as a skeptic” on the threat posed by climate change, Sullivan himself told the investigations and oversight subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee September 26. “After we listened to leaders of the scientific, business and governmental communities, both I and my colleagues came to agree that global climate change is and will be a significant threat to our national security: the potential destabilizing impacts of global climate change include reduced access to fresh water, impaired food production, health issues, especially from vector and food-borne diseases, and land loss, flooding and so forth, and the displacement of major populations. And overall, we view these phenomenon as related to failed states, growth of terrorism, mass migrations, and greater regional and inter-regional instability.”

At an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations in May, Sullivan said evidence of such fraying can already be seen. “At the heart of the Somalia crisis you will find drought, and drought caused famine,” Sullivan said. “Famine caused NGOs, many of which are probably in the room, to show up, including the United States of America and the United Nations, with food. The warlords started to control the food; they wanted to control the food. They then started controlling it and selling it and letting the other people — letting the other sides starve. That caused migration — Kenya, Ethiopia — and you get instability. Those countries couldn’t handle it. And that’s what’s going on in Darfur, same thing. Darfur — drought, the herders try to move in and take agricultural land, and you have a clash of religions and on and on and on. You get a threat multiplier. None of which is very good for us.”

Admiral Joseph Prueher, retired Pacific Command chief, told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a May hearing that he too was skeptical about global warming until he sat through hours of briefings on the topic. “Our view is that global climate change yields a group of challenges with which we have not yet grappled in a systematic way in our country,” the CNA panelist said. “Climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security.” Prueher, who also served as U.S. ambassador to China from 1999 to 2001, pointed out that ending U.S. reliance on oil also could help reduce global warming. “One can describe our current energy supply as finite, foreign and fickle. And continued pursuit of overseas energy supplies and our addiction to them cause a great loss of leverage for our nation in the international arena,” he said. “Ironically, our focus on climate change may actually help us on this count. Key elements of the solution set to mitigate climate change are the same ones we would use to gain energy security. Focusing on climate is not a distraction from our current challenges. It may actually help us identify solutions.”

Charles Wald, a retired Air Force four-star officer whose last assignment was as the deputy commander of the U.S. European Command from 2002 to 2006, told the committee that conventional warfare — the kind that preoccupies most of the Pentagon — is well down on the list of current threats. Terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear technology top his list. “After that, I’d put energy security as the next serious threat, and then after that I’d put climate change, and me as a military guy, I mean, I believe we need to continue to maintain a strong conventional capability, but I don’t put that, right now, today, as one of the top…threats we’re facing,” Wald said. “So, I think, in my lifetime, we’re at one of the more challenging times, probably one of the most dangerous times we’ve been in history, and it’s going to take severe vision and leadership in this nation to get us through this process, and I think the time for discussion is over.”

“I believe this issue is urgent,” CNA panelist and retired Navy vice admiral Richard Truly, a one-time space-shuttle astronaut, added at the hearing. “Not in the sense that the climate is going to declare war on the United States; it’s not that kind of a problem. But it’s a slowly building stress and it is accelerating.”

But it’s not only the retired officers who are now getting the message. “The demand for energy, water and food for growing populations is likely to increase competition and possibly conflict,” General George Casey, the Army chief of staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on November 15. “Climate change and natural disasters can cause humanitarian crises, population migrations and epidemic diseases.” Casey, in fact, issued a white paper elaborating on the topic in July. “Climate change and natural disasters will compound already difficult conditions in developing countries, causing humanitarian crises, driving regionally destabilizing population migrations and raising potential for epidemic diseases,” it said. “Desertification is occurring at nearly 50-70 thousand square miles per year. Over 15 million people die each year from communicable diseases and these numbers may grow exponentially as urban densities increase.  Increased consumption of resources – especially in densely populated areas will increase air, water, land, and even space pollution. Depletion of resources will also compound this problem by reducing natural replenishment sources. Natural disasters will have an increasingly greater impact on denser population areas.”

But the Pentagon’s efforts to deal with climate change and other environmental factors seems to many to be a rudderless ship. At a September hearing by the House Science and Technology Committee’s investigations and oversight panel, Kent Butts, director for national-security issues at the Army War College, said “there isn’t anything that speaks to climate change in an overarching fashion in the Department of Defense.” Butts argued that the Pentagon generally views climate change through a prism of access to energy, and needs to broaden its view of the threat and the challenges it poses. “Most of these efforts have been driven by economics and national security,” he said. “Reduce dependence on unstable sources of energy supply. Reduce our expenditures on energy. Reduce the vulnerability of task forces that must carry supplies of fuel to the front. What’s missing is an overarching set of guidelines that tell all elements of the Department of Defense to examine the security dimensions of the climate change phenomenon and apply it to their work. And if this were to reflect a national security strategy mention or directive to do so, the Department of Defense would address it through its own strategic documentation and we could get a greater return on investment. It’s being done in a decentralized fashion.”

When pressed if the “top level” of the Defense Department is pushing for policy adjustments due to climate change, Butts responded: “Not that I know of.” Prueher, the retired four-star admiral, echoed that thought at a May hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee when he was asked if the military has an overall plan for dealing with the threats posed by climate change. “Not to my knowledge,” he said. The Congressional Research Service, in a June report, said the Pentagon “does not seem to have a comprehensive long-term energy strategy or centralized leadership focused on energy issues for the department” and warned that “this may affect the department’s ability to achieve its long-term energy goals.”

Politics plays a role, Butts wrote recently. “Until the early 1990s when crises such as Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda defined the use of military forces, many senior military leaders viewed missions such as the war on drugs and environmental security as diluting their ability to maintain operational readiness, and opposed the,” he said in the U,.S. Pacific Command’s 2007 economic survey, But the emphasis on the topic flagged. “Some policy makers in the 2001 – 2004 Bush administration treated engagement and environmental security as Democratic concepts that emerged during the Clinton administration,” Butts wrote.

But that is slowly changing, he said in a recent interview. “It has been a gradual awakening,” Butts told Time December 14. “Increasingly, climate change is being recognized as something that threatens U.S. national security internationally and can destabilize areas that are affected by terrorism or extremist ideology. It’s now being worked and considered as something that should be put into the strategic documents — the Quadrennial Defense Review, the national defense strategy and the national military strategy” — all documents that drive U.S. military policy and spending decisions.

Some find this sudden emphasis on climate change unsettling. “Increasingly discussions about climate change are dominated by alarmism instead of common sense,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., complained at the September hearing, “As global warming has become more and more popular politically, predictions of the Earth’s future have become more and more dire…the predictions surrounding Y2K were similarly dire. Of course, this time it’s different. Every time the sky falls it’s different, and every time those who advocate common sense are chastised for ignoring inescapable peril.”

And Sensenbrenner warned of the U.S. doing too much while other nations remain on the sidelines. “As the challenges of competing in the globalized economy mount, rapidly growing countries like China and India have made it clear again and again that they do not intend to hinder their economic growth to curb climate change,” he said. “This means that any modest successes we enjoy at limiting our emissions will be completely offset by China and other nations. It also means that we cannot afford to stall our own economic development when other nations will not be similarly handicapped. Solutions that compromise our ability to produce energy or compete in the global economy will be disastrous for America’s future.” Wald, the retired Air Force general who served on the CNA panel, disputes that notion. “For anybody in the United States to say, `Because China isn’t doing it we’re not going to do it,’ is to me pretty immature and a loser,” he said in May.

But the military — like humans in general — has a problem with an ill-defined threat that is too often exaggerated. A 2003 report by a CIA consultant, for example, stressed a “plausible” scenario: “In 2007, a particularly severe storm causes the ocean to break through levees in the Netherlands making a few key coastal cities such as The Hague unlivable.” the report said. “Failures of the delta island levees in the Sacramento River region in the Central Valley of California creates an inland sea and disrupts the aqueduct system transporting water from northern to southern California because salt water can no longer be kept out of the area during the dry season. Melting along the Himalayan glaciers accelerates, causing some Tibetan people to relocate.” Too often, such reports allow the public to dismiss the entire issue.

And, once again, partisan politics plays a role. “The emphasis on the environment in America’s foreign policy can differ substantially from one presidential administration to another, perceptible in key documents such as the National Security Strategy,” wrote Dan Henk, a retired Army colonel, in the summer 2006 issue of Parameters, the Army’s professional journal. “The 1998 Clinton document clearly linked security to the environment. That connection has been much less specific in the National Security Strategies of George W. Bush.” In fact, Busby recommends Goodman’s office be revived. “Given the strong links between climate change and security, the rebuilding of a cadre of officials focused on climate should begin at the Pentagon,” his report said. “A new deputy undersecretary of defense position for environmental security (under the broader mandate of OSD’s policy office) should be created to redress the insufficient institutionalization of climate and environmental concerns in DOD decision-making.”

Goodman’s slot was the equivalent of a three-star officer, a position with significant clout inside the Pentagon. In the current administration, the senior environmental civilian is down at the one-star level and can’t command such respect, Pentagon officials and military officers say. “The uniformed military is interested in environmental stewardship and doing the right thing,” Goodman told Time on December 17. “But it takes it cue from the politically appointed civilian leadership for whom, for the most part, the environment has not been a high priority. The national-security implications of climate change have not been a priority in this administration.” Goodman calls climate change “one of the fundamental national security issues of our age — as fundamental as the threat of nuclear war was 20 or 30 years ago. It’s a threat multiplier for instability in volatile regions of the world.”

Goodman believes the Bush administration is slowly coming to see the import of climate change. “It’s beginning to change now since President Bush last year talked about the global threat of climate change,” she told Time. “That has enabled other parts of the government to work on climate change issues in a way they weren’t allowed to before. He gave them cover, but it hasn’t necessarily become a priority.” She decries the money the U.S. is spending on oil, much of which flows to nations that have served as Petri dishes for terror. “We have to wean ourselves from oil because right now we’re paying those who would do us harm,” she says. “It’s now a mainstream security issue — climate change isn’t a fringe movement for tree-huggers and Birkenstock wearers any more,” Goodman says. “It’s affecting the lives of billions and so we’ve got to understand what those threats are, and how to plan for them and reduce them.”

“We didn’t fight the science,” says Zinni, who served on the CNA panel. “We didn’t want to politicize this, so we sort of accepted the majority scientific view and we took it from there. But if you ask me personally, the science seems overwhelming to me.” Zinni also found the military open to the issue. “I don’t think there’s any sort of built-in hostility toward this — there might have been in the Rumsfeld era, but certainly not now,” he says.

Sullivan doesn’t blame the Pentagon for dragging its feet on the issue given the lack of attention he says it has garnered from its civilian overlords. “There was no resistance to the study” from members of the military that the CNA panel met with as it was investigating the issue. “I don’t think anybody (in the Pentagon) is shirking their duties on this front.” He also puts his panel in the same company: “I think retired generals and admirals like us would be criticized if we didn’t take a look at this very important issue and think about what might be happening, and that’s why we did it.”

Alan Shaffer, who runs the Pentagon’s office of defense research and engineering, says he and his colleagues don’t have their heads stuck in the sand. “There is a recognition inside the Department of Defense, and the national-security apparatus, that no matter where you come down on the issue of climate change, it affects our national-security policies,” he told Time December 19. “It affects how we operate and deal with other nations, and, if true — my personal opinion doesn’t matter — it has very serious ramifications for national security.” Shaffer’s opinion really doesn’t matter because he’s a bureaucrat — a civil servant who carries out policy and doesn’t make policy. He has spent 30 years in the Air Force and working as a Pentagon civilian on energy and climate issues, and now runs the Pentagon’s energy security task force (despite repeated requests, the Pentagon declined to make available for interviews any political appointee working in this area; policy decisions regarding climate change, they said, would come from the White House and National Security Council, not the Defense Department). Nonetheless, attention is being paid, Shaffer insists. “We spent the entire Cold War thinking about a nuclear exchange,” he says. “We have people now in the department thinking about what would be the ramifications of a changed environment.”

Alex Beehler, who worked for Koch Industries where he served as director of environmental and regulatory affairs is now the Pentagon’s top environmental official. (Koch is, by Forbes’ estimate, the world’s largest privately-held company by revenue, and is involved in energy, manufacturing, trading and investing.) Beehler serves as the assistant deputy under secretary of defense for Environment, Safety, and Occupational Health. When the Bush administration nominated him to serve as the inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency in August 2006, Senate Democrats blocked him from taking the post for his alleged pro-industry views.

Congress, now led by Democrats, has ordered the Pentagon to review how climate change could affect military operations in the 2008 defense authorization bill’s conference report, and to “develop the capabilities needed to reduce future impacts.” A presidential candidate — and a co-sponsor of the measure — praised the action. “Global warming poses many risks, and our nation’s response must address all these factors—including the threats global warming poses to our national security,” Senator Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said December 7 following its approval. “This amendment will require the administration to address the national security implications of climate change.” Administration officials say they have no problem with the language. “I believe it is entirely appropriate for the National Intelligence Council to prepare an assessment on the geopolitical and security implications of climate change,” Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told a lawmaker in a May letter.

Retired Army general Paul Kern, who served on the CNA panel, says getting the intelligence community to fold climate change into its assessments is a key first step in dealing with the problem. “They’re beginning to do long range planning, about how you’re going to allocate resources,” Kern told Time December 14. “That way you end up planning for it, instead of letting it creep up and surprise you.”

The defense bill, expected to win final approval by year’s end, also calls on the military to boost its use of renewable energy by giving it permission to enter into 10-year contracts for its purchase. It also requires that every building constructed or “significantly altered” by the military use energy-efficient light bulbs and fixtures “to the maximum extent feasible.” And it authorizes nearly $75 million for military development of alternative energy, including “advanced energy and power technologies, including programs to develop fuel cells, hybrid engines, and biofuels for military systems.” There’s a provision urging the military services to use wind, solar and other renewable forms of energy to meet at least 25% of their electricity needs by 2025. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 required the Defense Department to obtain at least 7.5% of its electric power from renewable sources by 2013.

Dealing with such concerns won’t be cheap. “Developing countries, particularly in Africa and Asia, are going to be vulnerable,” Busby, the author of the Council on Foreign Relations study, said December 7. “Yet the scale of resources available to them is in the low hundreds of millions when it will likely need to be in the tens of billions.” Spending billions to prevent trouble down the road makes economic sense. “These investments in risk reduction will likely be much less expensive than what the United States and other rich countries will face if we wait for these severe droughts, storms and floods to put hundreds of thousands and potentially millions on the move as refugees at risk of death from disease, starvation, drowning or violent conflict,” Busby said.

Green — beyond Army green — is popping up at military bases around the nation. Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada celebrated the completion of the largest photo voltaic installation in North America on December 17. It generates one-quarter of the base’s power needs or enough to supply 13,000 houses with electricity. The Nellis project produces 14 megawatts on a power plant site covering 140 acres, and will save the base $1 million in annual power bills. A wind farm is helping to power F. W. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming. At Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, new skylights have been installed in eight hangars, cutting the need for electric lights.

In August, the Pentagon’s acquisition chief ordered the military services to consider increasing their use of simulators to curb energy consumption. A June Congressional Research Service study estimated the Pentagon could save $1 billion by increasing the use of simulators instead of real planes, tanks and helicopters for training. “Saving fuel and wear and tear on aircraft are the two advantages of using simulators,” the study said. But it cautioned that “the experience gained by sitting in a box in a room is significantly different from the experience gained in a real aircraft thousands of feet in the air with real dangers and real consequences.”

On September 19, 2006  a B-52 bomber flew for the first time powered — in part — by synthetic fuel, which provided half the fuel needed by a pair of its eight engines. On December 15, 2006, all eight engines were powered by such a 50-50 mix.  “The B-52 test flights at Edwards Air Force Base are the initial steps in the Air Force process to test and certify a synthetic blend of fuel for its aviation fleet,” Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne said after the eight-engine flight. “We are confident that the success of this flight will bring us one step closer to allowing a domestic source of synthetic fuel to accomplish the Air Force mission in the future.”

By 2016 the Air Force wants half of the fuel it pumps into its aircraft in the continental U.S. to be 50 percent synthetic. “If you’re not out there challenging the market, it’s not going to move, and if a major customer is demanding this, that the supplier market reacts to what customers want,” William Anderson, assistant secretary of the Air Force, said December 12. “We intend to use our size in the marketplace to try to drive this forward.” That would be 400 million gallons of synfuel in 2016 ” “a sizable amount of fuel,” Anderson said (in 2005, the Pentagon consumed about 125 million barrels of oil — 1.2 percent of the nation’s total).

In April, a Pentagon study warned that its reliance on oil makes its ability to respond to global hot spots “unsustainable in the long term.” The study, done for the Pentagon’s Office of Force Transformation and Resources, said the military must “fundamentally transform” its assumptions about energy use, including considering the use of synthetic fuels, biofuels, ethanol, as well as solar and wind power. The Pentagon must “apply new energy technologies that address alternative supply sources and efficient consumption across all aspects of military operations,” according to the report, “Transforming the Way DoD Looks at Energy,” done by LMI Government Consulting. More than half of the Pentagon’s cargo is fuel, and troops guzzle it like there is no tomorrow: a single soldier on the battlefield in World War required a gallon of fuel a day to support him. By 1991’s Gulf war, it took four gallons, according to the LMI study. Last year. each soldier deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq required 16 gallons per day. The need for oil costs well beyond the price of fuel: in 2003, the U.S. spent $44.4 billion of its military budget patrolling and protecting the shipping lanes that funnel Persian Gulf oil to U.S. refineries, the study said.

All this suggests just how mammoth the challenge presented by climate change represents to the U.S. military. But recognizing that there is a problem is half the battle, and old-line environmentalists know it. The CNA report was rolled out at a May gathering of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington by three of its 11 authors. With the help of moderator Steve Inskeep, they detailed what they had found. Then they handled a battery of questions before Inskeep said there was time for one more. “This gentleman here seems very eager in the front row,” the host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” said. “If you’d just wait for the microphone, sir.”

The old man finally spoke. “I’m Russell Train of the World Wildlife Fund, chairman emeritus,” said the 86-year old, who served as the second head of the Environmental Protection Agency dating back to the Nixon and Ford administrations. “I spent about 40 years working in the environmental area. And I’m accustomed to having the mainstream frequently dismiss environmental concerns as fringe, irrelevant, elitist, et cetera. And I just want to say how refreshing it is to have you gentlemen who do not represent, I think, the fringe” — the wonkish crowd laughed knowingly — “speak up on this issue. I congratulate you, and I hope you make yourselves heard.”