At Hagel hearings, 'green' Pentagon could make some lawmakers see red

About a month before Chuck Hagel, left, was named Secretary of Defense in early 2013, he greeted Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), committee chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee.

About a month before Chuck Hagel, left, was named Secretary of Defense in early 2013, he greeted Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), committee chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing Thursday for Chuck Hagel, President’s Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary. One topic that could come up is the Pentagon’s use of renewable energy.

The Pentagon powers some planes and ships on biofuels, and there are acres of solar panels on some bases. Geoff Dabelko, who teaches environmental studies at Ohio University, says the green push even shows up on the hulls of warships.

“It’s even what paint you put on the hulls because it lasts longer, goes through the water faster, these kinds of things,” says Dabelko.

But it hasn’t been easy going green. Congressional cost cutters say the Pentagon shouldn’t be buying alternative fuels because they’re more expensive than conventional oil and gas. Andrew Holland, an energy policy analyst at the American Security Project who worked for Hagel as a legislative aide, says Hagel would agree with him that cost isn’t the issue, and that the Defense Department is using renewable fuels for security reasons. 

"This helps to make it more likely for our war fighters to fight and win America’s wars," Holland says.

Holland says if you have fuel efficient vehicles or solar-powered bases, you don’t need as many fuel convoys, which are often attacked.  

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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