The United States spends $20.2 billion annually on air conditioning for troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan — more than NASA’s entire budget, NPR reported.
In fact, the same amount of money that keeps soldiers cool is the amount the G-8 has committed to helping the fledgling democracies in Tunisia and Egypt.
The necessary cooling costs so much because of the remote locations and danger involved in delivery equipment and fuel, Steven Anderson, a retired logistician who served under Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq.
“When you consider the cost to deliver the fuel to some of the most isolated places in the world — escorting, command and control, medevac support — when you throw all that infrastructure in, we’re talking over $20 billion,” Anderson told NPR. “You’ve got risks that are associated with moving the fuel almost every mile of the way.”
And it’s a long way to move the fuel: 800 miles of “improved goat trails” separate Karachi, where the fuel is shipped in, to Afghanistan. The transport takes 18 days.
By embracing green practices, Anderson said, money and soldiers’ lives could be saved: more than 1,000 troops have died while transporting fuel. Their trucks are a popular target, and commanders have to stop their operations to leave and go on fuel runs. When they’re gone, he said, the insurgents know they’re gone, and the U.S. troops lose ground in their missions.
Experiments have been conducted using polyurethane foam insulation in the tents to shield soldiers from the 125-degree heat of the Middle East, cutting energy use by 92 percent. However, nobody is enthusiastic about taking initiative to green the military.
“A simple policy signed by the secretary of defense — a one- or two-page memo, saying we will no longer build anything other than energy-efficient structures in Iraq and Afghanistan — would have a profound impact,” Anderson said.