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Biden administration to transform Pentagon with new clean energy plan: 'An uninterrupted power source'

"As a nation and a department, we must do our part to mitigate climate change itself."

"As a nation and a department, we must do our part to mitigate climate change itself."

Photo Credit: iStock

The United States military is one of the largest polluters in the world, as researchers have noted, though it is seldom talked about in those terms. Now, that organization's headquarters are about to become a bit more environmentally friendly as the federal government is set to allocate $104 million in grants to install solar panels on the Pentagon.

The solar panels will provide "an uninterrupted power source," assistant secretary of Defense for energy, installations, and environment Brendan Owens said, per the Associated Press. In addition to the solar panels, the Pentagon will also be receiving a heat pump system, as well as thermally efficient windows.

The changes are expected to double the amount of carbon-free electricity at federal facilities. With money from the grants, energy upgrades will also be made at naval bases in Georgia and Washington state, in addition to the Naval Support Activity Mid-South in Tennessee.

All of these upgrades represent a step in the right direction. However, if the U.S. military is truly interested in reducing the harm it does to our planet, there is still work to be done.

According to Oxford University political scientist Neta C. Crawford, who wrote an entire book on the topic, the U.S. Department of Defense is the single largest institutional user of dirty energy in the world. 

Since 2001, the military has been responsible for 77% to 80% of all federal energy usage, according to Sen. Edward Markey and U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones in a 2021 letter to President Joe Biden. And that is to say nothing of the extensive environmental damage caused by the military's direct operations, from nuclear testing to dropping bombs to poisoning civilians in the proximity of its bases.

"U.S. military emissions are about 51 million metric tons [56 million tons], CO2 equivalent, annually in the last two years [which is] larger than the emissions of most countries," Crawford told Mother Jones in an interview.

Although the military's reporting on its own pollution output has been inconsistent, in recent years, some officials have detailed efforts to try to mitigate environmental damage. Now, as the AP noted, these new efforts are in step with Biden's executive order from 2021 that aims to achieve a "65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from federal operations by 2030."

"The department is committed to meeting the challenge, by making significant changes in our use of energy and increasing our investments in clean energy technology," Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said in November 2021, per Inside Climate News. "As a nation and a department, we must do our part to mitigate climate change itself."

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