U.S. military “keen to go green”…Really?

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Rick MacInnes-Rae

Journalist Rick MacInnes-Rae delivered some startling news on the May 26th edition of his CBC Radio program Dispatches. “In the United States, the push for energy conservation isn’t just a civilian concern,” he told listeners. “In fact the mighty American military is way out front, keen to go green on land and sea because it cuts costs — and casualties.”

MacInnes-Rae’s upbeat “way-out-in-front-keen-to-go-green” phrasing  was in sharp contrast to the headline, “US Department of Defense is the Worst Polluter on the Planet” put out by Project Censored, a university-based outfit in California that, for the last 35 years, has been drawing attention to news ignored by mainstream media. This year, the U.S. military’s dismal environmental record made number two on Project Censored’s list of  the top 25 under-reported stories.

But there was no mention of that on Dispatches, as MacInnes-Rae introduced CBC reporter David Common. His eight-minute documentary takes listeners aboard the USS Makin Island, an aircraft carrier the length of three football fields. With its dozens of helicopters, its handful of jump jets and its crew of thousands, “the Makin Island is capable of launching an invasion all on her own,” Common declares. “But this giant is most impressive down below — in the engine room.”

America’s Great Granola

USS Makin Island

Why so impressive? Well, it seems the big ship uses its “fuel-pig gas turbines” only when it needs to sprint. “Otherwise it runs on its electrical generators.”  Still, a crew member’s claim that the ship saves an “almost unheard-of” amount of fuel leaves Common scratching his head. “You want to believe him, but you don’t really see the U.S. military as America’s Great Granola — its saviour on the green front.”

However, Common soon learns from the number two man on the ship that during operations it can get by on “much less” than 10,000 gallons of fossil fuel a day.  And not only is the U.S. military planning to launch “an entire fleet” of such hybrid ships, it’s also installing big solar panels to generate electricity on its bases in Afghanistan. That way U.S. soldiers won’t keep getting blown up trucking diesel fuel through enemy territory.  The good news continues as Common informs listeners that the U.S. is flying some of its fighter jets on plant-based biodiesel.

Common calls the U.S. military’s use of alternative energy “incredibly  profound” and ends with  a flourish:  “A green revolution is unfolding in the United States led by about the only group large enough to effect change, motivated not just by cost savings, but a proven ability to go further on less and save lives by out-greening their enemies.”

Project Censored, on the other hand, is much less sanguine. “The US military is responsible for the most egregious and widespread pollution of the planet, yet this information and accompanying documentation goes almost entirely unreported,” it says, adding that environmental groups also largely ignore the U.S. military’s environmental impact. “This impact includes uninhibited use of fossil fuels, massive creation of greenhouse gases, and extensive release of radioactive and chemical contaminants into the air, water, and soil.”

Looks like America’s Great Granola and saviour on the green front is also the world’s worst polluter. CBC listeners take note.

About Bruce Wark

Bruce Wark is a freelance journalist and retired journalism professor who lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. He taught the history and ethics of journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia for 15 years. Before that, he worked for 19 years at CBC Radio news serving as a producer in charge of such network programs as World at Six, World Report and The House. He also produced Media File, a national program that looked critically at the performance of the news media. Along the way, Wark also worked as CBC Radio's legislative reporter in Ontario and as its National Reporter in Canada's Maritime provinces.
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