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Military Strives to Shrink Carbon 'Boot Print' : Discovery News

The U.S. military has a history of giving the world transformational technology -- and they're at it again.

THE GIST:

- The U.S. military is leading the charge to reduce America's carbon footprint.

- Solar-powered water purification and jets running on biofuel are examples of the military's innovation.

- The Defense Department accounts for 80 percent of the government's total energy needs.

From solar-powered water purification systems in Afghanistan to a Navy jet fueled in part by biofuel, the U.S. military is taking a lead role in shrinking America's carbon "boot print", an independent report said Tuesday.

The Department of Defense accounts for 80 percent of the U.S. government's total energy consumption energy needs, and most of the energy it uses currently comes from fossil fuels, the report by the Pew Research think tank's Project on National Security, Energy and Climate says.

But moves are afoot in all branches of the military to change that.

The Army and Air Force have several bases that are partially powered by solar energy, one of which -- Fort Irwin in California -- is expected to be able to stop taking energy from the public electricity grid within a decade.

The navy has set itself a key goal of getting 50 percent of fuel used ashore and afloat from non-fossil sources by 2020, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told a telephone news conference after the report was issued.

The navy will also test-fly this week its "Green Hornet" F-18 fighter jet, which runs on a mix of biofuel made from camelina, a plant in the mustard family, and aviation fuel, he said.

"Unlike first-generation corn ethanol, camelina is a plant that can be used in rotation with things like wheat instead of letting the land lie fallow. So it doesn't take food out of the supply chain, but it does provide American farmers with another crop they can grow," Mabus said.

And the Marine Corps, working with the army, has applied energy efficient foams to temporary structures in Iraq which reduce energy consumption by up to 75 percent.

With its history giving the world transformational technology like the Internet and GPS systems which help car drivers to navigate, the report predicts that the steps the U.S. military is taking now to beat back climate change will lead to a raft of innovations that enhance energy efficiency for the military and the general public.

Those could include new alternative fuels, advanced energy storage and more efficient vehicles on land, in the air and at sea, it said.

Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew's climate and energy program, called on lawmakers to back what the military is doing on the climate change and energy efficiency fronts by passing comprehensive climate change legislation.

"It should put a price on carbon, invest in energy innovation and help deploy renewable energy," she said.

"Doing so will make us more prosperous, reduce pollution, and enhance our national security," she said.