By Kevin Hengehold
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
Originally Posted at Source CleanTech
For too long, the approach to renewable energy has been consumed by the culture wars. Renewable energy advocates have largely occupied the left wing of contemporary politics, and with that injecting their cultural values into the discussion. Moreover, too often the anti-war animus that characterized the left for much of the last decade made it difficult for such organizations to work hand in hand with the military.
Operation Free aims to end that. Begun by the Truman Project, Op Free empowers veterans to work towards a clean energy future.
“Dependency on fossil fuels is a national security issue,” says Lt. Col. Joe Knott, sustainable energy manager for the National Guard. Not only are they a nonrenewable resource, meaning we will run out of them one day, but the production and consumption of them constrain our geopolitics, sometimes forcing military intervention in places we otherwise wouldn’t go.
The costs of fossil fuels to the military are adding up. Currently the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, but getting that gasoline to forward bases in Afghanistan costs more than $400 per gallon. The human costs are significant as well. “1 out of 24 convoys takes a casualty. I believe a soldier’s life is priceless.” Renewable energy generation such as solar power allows troops to take fewer convoy runs, avoiding these deadly high costs.
Moving back to the homeland, energy security through clean energy remains a top priority. “The Department of Defense and other prognosticators have predicted that there won’t be large-scale peacekeeping or intervention in the energy-rich nations – European countries, Canada, USA,” says Operation Free spokesman Brett Hunt. “Most interventions will occur in energy poor areas, the places that don’t light up in the evening.” Recognizing that, maintaining energy security becomes vital to our national security.
Operation Free’s mission is typified in the film The Burden, which characterizes the issues currently present with our nation’s consumption of fossil fuels and the need to transition to a clean energy economy.
A quote from the preview struck me when a veteran remarked on trying to discuss these topics with skeptics. They’ll say “oh, that’s wishy washy, that’s Al Gore.” And she replies “No, that’s the Pentagon!” Maybe the partisan divide on clean energy is starting to crumble.
This could be due in part to the veterans’ involvement. Brett described the military as “a melting pot, a reflection of nation. There are people of different faiths, race, upbringing, and political leanings. Working across these lines gives you a great diversity of experiences, working with many different people you wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. “As we move toward the target, we work with colleagues regardless of ideology.” Now, the target has become securing our energy future.
Capt. Hunt remarked on his Op Free Vets, saying “As soldiers come home from their service, they want to continue to serve their community. We want to serve something larger than ourselves.”
Already, they’ve seen positive results. Operation Free took on a major advocacy position in the continuation of the Production Tax Credit, which provides an incentive to wind energy development, and they’re involved in the fight for advanced biofuels for the Navy, attempting to protect them from budget cuts.
In Arizona, where Capt. Hunt currently lives and works, Operation Free is focused on building the organization and adding veterans who care and are engaged on these issues. The goal is to employ more clean energy solutions that make sense for Arizona, such as solar. They’re closely monitoring the debate on net metering, and although they are supporters of solar customers being fully credited for the power they generate, Op Free hasn’t entered the debate officially.
When asked about Op Free’s long term goals Brett said he wants to “build an independent energy future, and see Arizona become a leader in solar and advanced biofuel.” A goal like this is beneficial for the economy as well as the climate, an idea everyone can get behind.