FEMA's now-famous "Waffle House Test" underscored the importance of emergency planning and energy security for businesses, and now the US Marine Corps has an important energy message of its own to add. According to a note from the DOD Energy Blog, General John R. Allen, United States Marine Corps Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, has issued a short, bluntly worded memorandum that lays out the importance of energy conservation as an ongoing practice. General Allen sums it up by this maxim: "Operational energy equates exactly to operational capability." The real-world meaning of those words is very different in a war zone compared to communities at peace, but it still drives home the urgent need to place a far greater value on energy in daily life.
The US Marines Energy Awareness Test: Part 1.
The first part of General Allen's memo concerns management decisions. That involves focusing procurement and investment decisions on energy efficient equipment and other opportunities to reduce fuel consumption. It also includes management decisions that involve creative problem solving. That would include, for example, rescheduling or rerouting transportation to save fuel.
The US Marines Energy Awareness Test: Part 2.
General Allen's memo is addressed to the entire force, not just to commanders, and that brings us to the second area he addresses: the importance of individual action. It's worth quoting his words in full:
Most of all, I need your help with personal choices. Every light bulb, hot water heater, and air conditioner is supplied electricity by burning fuel. We move that fuel throughout the country in a contested battlespace to hundreds of generators at forward locations. By turning off lights, taking shorter showers and shutting off unused air conditioners, you can help eliminate a resupply convoy or flight. Your small choices may save someone's life. We can all do better.
Small Choices, Big Energy Picture
The choices that confront us here at home are not so stark, but General Allen's memo serves as a reminder that fossil fuels are loaded with risk and threats to life and well-being beyond the immediacy of a war zone. That includes the widespread health impacts from vehicle emissions and coal burning power plants as well as local economic and health impacts from disasters such as BP's Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Tennessee coal ash spill, water contamination and earthquakes from natural gas fracking, and habitat loss, economic depression and community health impacts related to coal mining, especially mountaintop removal.
Taking into consideration the US Marines' adoption of solar energy and other new technologies at forward operating bases, General Allen's memo drives at creating the energy profile of the future: a leaner, smarter and more flexible system that joins safe, low-risk forms of renewable energy, energy efficient equipment and advanced energy storage with energy users who have the awareness and training to get the best out of that technology. If we really want to support our troops, it's time to leave behind the idea that the American identity is forever entwined with consuming energy indiscriminately while blowing up huge chunks of our natural heritage, polluting our air, and contaminating our water resources.
Note: the DOD Energy Blog, dodenergy.blogspot.com, "tracks the energy challenges facing the US Department of Defense in the early 21st century."
Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.