The U.S. Army has gone socialist.

Secretary of the Army John McHugh today announced the creation of the Energy Initiatives Office, which will help the massive government agency centrally plan and deploy renewable energy projects. In all, the Army wants to get 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025. The scale of the project will likely require investment of $7.1 billion over the next 10 years alone. The power plants purchased with that investment will generate 2.1 million megawatt-hours.

Ideally, the EIO will help streamline purchasing, help various divisions and bases qualify for volume discounts, and allow the Army to develop expertise in erecting and managing power plants.

The federal government consumes two percent of all the energy in the U.S., and the Department of Defense accounts for 90 percent of that total. Thus, renewable investments by any branch of the service could mean a big boost for the industry. The Department of Defense has played a critical role in the development of other markets. The DoD commissioned ENIAC, the first U.S. supercomputer, and became one of the primary customers in the early computer market. It also helped semiconductors get off the ground. The early investment paved the way for the high tech industry.

Military spending isn't perfect. The bloated nature of many plane and missile projects prove that. But government investment into infrastructure -- railroads, public libraries, freeways, national parks, bridges -- certainly has paid dividends in the past. 

Ray Mabus, the Secretary of the Navy, has also been a strong proponent of renewables. In speeches, he's noted that one of the larger jobs for the Navy at the moment is protecting convoys for oil and gas into Afghanistan. Lives are being put at risk to protect fuel lines. Seventy percent of the world's population lives within 100 miles of an ocean coastline, so rising sea levels caused by global warming will create international security hazards that the Navy and its personnel will have to counter. The Navy has set a goal of making half of its bases net-zero energy facilities in about 10 years. It has also invested in hybrid ships and biofuels.

ARPA-E and the DoD are investing in energy storage as well. Forward bases need to remain energy independent.

Critics will trot out the usual charges. Solar is too expensive. Global warming is a myth. Government purchasing will distort the market. We should use the secret fusion cubes found at Area 51 instead. Iraq wasn't about oil. Etc.

I'm not going to answer those questions. I'm just going to say, if you like fossil fuels that much, then you go defend the supply lines.

Tags: afganistan, army, biofuels, department of defense, iran, iraq, navy, renewables, solar, wind