The Defense Department has 680 renewable energy projects in the works encompassing all five branches of the U.S. armed forces as part of President Barack Obama's continuing effort to create a "green" military sustainable by alternative energy sources, TheBlaze has learned.
In a July 18, 2012 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93) and the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) are underway during the Great Green Fleet demonstration portion of the Rim of the Pacific 2012 exercise. (AP/U.S. Navy, MC3 Ryan Mayes)
The 680 projects underway -- as well as hundreds of other projects still in the proposal stages -- come as the military faces severe budgetary cutbacks, and critics of Obama's green agenda, including opponents of his recent executive order to "prepare the nation" for the effects of climate change, say it's part of an overarching agenda that encroaches on civil liberties and puts the nation's security at risk.
The projects include 357 solar, 29 wind and five other undisclosed endeavors regarding "electricity generation," according to a document provided by the Defense Department. There are 289 thermal energy projects as well.
Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright told TheBlaze that the military's focus on green building standards, electric vehicles, solar panels and a slew of other environmentally sound projects is to reduce dependence on foreign resources and to protect military personnel.
"The primary thing to remember about all this is that we're not doing it to be 'green' people," Wright said. "We're doing it because it reduces energy dependency, helps protect service members, and costs less money. The fact that it is good for the environment is a very fortunate happenstance."
But critics say it's no secret that Obama is using everything in his executive power to push an environmental agenda forward despite failures over renewable energy projects like Solyndra, which cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. There's also still an ongoing debate regarding the causes or even extent of global warming.
Nick Loris, a senior policy analyst in energy and environment with the conservative Heritage Foundation, told TheBlaze the green projects don't add to the readiness of the U.S. military, only inhibit it.
"This is another way to create crony capitalism where the government is using taxpayer money to fund politically preferred technologies," Loris said. "People don't really notice it as much if you're greening the military, but even environmental groups are saying a lot of these things aren't even protecting our environment, in fact they make it worse. Not only are we wasting taxpayers' money but there is dubious environmental benefits as well."
An F/A-18E Super Hornet prepares to take off from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Mediterranean Sea, Oct. 24, 2013. (Getty Images)
There are no out front costs associated with the 680 renewable energy projects because the projects are sustained by private developers and "we allow them to use the land and we buy the energy they produce (at a reasonable rate) so there are no associated building costs," Wright said.
U.S. lawmakers, however, were up in arms last year over the Navy's so-called "green fleet" where the cost of the alternative biofuel was a whopping $26 per gallon. The Navy spent $12 million for 450,000 gallons of biofuel to power a carrier strike group off the coast of Hawaii in 2012.
"That $26.6-per-gallon purchase is nowhere near the $2.50 the service pays for each gallon of petroleum. (It has been stated that it would be about $16 per gallon if it were mixed with standard jet fuel.)," National Defense Magazine wrote at the time.
Loris added that the Air Force also purchased 11,000 gallons of a biofuel from a Colorado company at $59 a gallon in 2012 -- more than 10 times the cost of regular fuel.
In total, the Air Force spent $649,000 to test the efficiency of alternative fuels in the military planes in 2012, National Defense magazine reported.
"If it's not improving our capabilities then it's not improving the premiums that we're paying," Loris said. "This should be low on our priorities."
James Carafano, a senior defense analyst with the Heritage Foundation who has testified before Congress against the "green military" programs, said what Obama has done with military budget cuts undermines the nation's ability to defend itself adequately against enemy states, "let alone against the possible problems the president claims will be caused by global warming."
One U.S. military official told TheBlaze on the condition of anonymity that with the ongoing budget crisis, it's "ridiculous to allocate money to green initiatives in the military when you're depleting the military's combat readiness capabilities."
The 2013 Pentagon budget plan was to cut $500 billion in spending over the next decade through the elimination of roughly 100,000 ground troops, retiring Navy vessels and cutting down Air Force squadrons just as the U.S. military prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan. These cuts are in addition to the more than $480 million already being cut from the military. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno warned Congress in October that only two Army brigades are ready and trained for combat deployment due to the extensive cuts in the military's budget.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned Tuesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that "these cuts are too fast, too abrupt and too irresponsible" and warned they will "cause an unnecessary, strategically unsound and dangerous degradation in military readiness and capability."
Carafano questioned the decision for the military to keep pushing forward with unproven green projects and for the White House to be moving forward with an executive climate change order in the face of such cutbacks.
"If you actually believed climate change was going to increase instability in the world and create more natural disasters, you wouldn't be gutting the military and intelligence," Carafano said, referring to the executive order. "But that is exactly what Obama is doing."
Meanwhile, the "only thing (the Department of Defense) is doing is spending money on is virtually useless green energy projects, like the Navy biofuel program," he said.
Since 2009, Obama and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus have dedicated increasingly limited budgetary resources to building the Navy's “green fleet.” Mabus has said he would like to replace conventional diesel fuel for ships with biofuels harvested from organic material and have an environmentally friendlier fleet by 2016.
In an August editorial for Foreign Policy magazine titled "Green Water," Mabus defended the Navy's biofuel initiatives, stating that in 1944, Congress committed millions of dollars for demonstration plants for expensive synthetic fuels. He said the fact that the Obama administration has committed $510 million to a biofuel production initiative teaming the Navy with the departments of Energy and Agriculture, along with private sector partners, should not be surprising.
In 2012, however, Republican lawmakers voiced their opposition to the military's various biofuels initiatives, and the House Armed Services Committee put a blanket ban on the purchase of any alternative fuel that costs more than what they termed "traditional fossil fuel" in the Pentagon's budget for 2013.
In August, the Senate confirmed Obama's appointment of Dennis McGinn as assistant Navy secretary for energy installations and the environment. McGinn, a retired Navy vice admiral who headed the American Council on Renewable Energy, is one of many appointees Obama is counting on to continue the Defense Department's momentum in researching renewable-energy technology. McGinn was also the co-chairman of the Center for Naval Analyses' military advisory board on climate change, which authored a prominent paper urging the defense community to make climate change a national security issue.
"This is an all-around goal for Obama," Carafano said. "It's about turning the nation green, even if it costs us more or hinders our national security and military."