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Surging price of oil forces US military to seek alternative energy sources

John Vidal, Guardian
It’s a secret just how much oil the US military uses, but estimates range from around 400,000 barrels a day in peacetime – almost as much as Greece – to 800,000 barrels a day at the height of the Iraq war.This puts a single nation’s armed forces near Australia as an oil consumer and among the top 25 countries in the world today.

Either way it is by far the world’s largest single buyer of oil and the last thing any admiral, general or under secretary of defence has had to be been concerned about is whether there’s gas in the tanks or that the navy’s carbon emissions are a bit extravagant.

But there are signs of change. Every $10 rise in the price of oil costs the gas-guzzling US air force around an extra $600m each year. Just keeping one US soldier in Afghanistan with the world price of oil at $80 a barrel now costs hundreds of dollars a day in fuel alone. And because the US as a country imports more than $300bn worth of oil a year, fiscal reality is dawning. The US military spent around $8bn in 2004 on fuel, and probably twice that last year. Surging world fuel prices are likely to put the brakes on the US oil war machine as much as political opposition.

The military knows this. Earlier this year a Joint Operating Environment report from the US joint forces command predicted that global surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be a shortfall of nearly 10m barrels a day by 2015.

“Peak oil”, said the generals, would impact massively on the US and other economies, and the US military would be compromised.
(28 October 2010)

Navajos Hope to Shift From Coal to Wind and Sun

Mireya Navarro, New York Times
BLUE GAP, Ariz. — For decades, coal has been an economic lifeline for the Navajos, even as mining and power plant emissions dulled the blue skies and sullied the waters of their sprawling reservation.

But today there are stirrings of rebellion. Seeking to reverse years of environmental degradation and return to their traditional values, many Navajos are calling for a future built instead on solar farms, ecotourism and microbusinesses.

“At some point we have to wean ourselves,” Earl Tulley, a Navajo housing official, said of coal as he sat on the dirt floor of his family’s hogan, a traditional circular dwelling.

Mr. Tulley, who is running for vice president of the Navajo Nation in the Nov. 2 election, represents a growing movement among Navajos that embraces environmental healing and greater reliance on the sun and wind, abundant resources on a 17 million-acre reservation spanning Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
(25 October 2010)

Our aging water systems are long past due for a major overhaul

Wenonah Hauter, OtherWords
President Barack Obama recently announced plans to modernize our crumbling roads, rails, and airports while providing jobs for the construction industry. While we certainly need to fix our nation’s transportation infrastructure, another crucial set of systems in the U.S. begs for attention. Water infrastructure in every state in the U.S. is woefully outdated.

A national crisis looms, but it’s one we can avert through a renewed commitment to modernizing and maintaining our public water systems.

Across the nation, aging water pipes break, stranding residents and businesses without the water needed to fulfill basic needs. This happened in the Boston area earlier this year when a water main broke, prompting a boil notice for some two million area residents. The bill to repair the damages that ensued climbed to over $600,000, and the federal government contributed nothing.

The consequences of aging sewer systems can be worse. When aging sewer pipes burst, they spill untreated waste into rivers, lakes, and streams.
(26 October 2010)