Energy Secretary Wants All-Electric Military

All-Electric Military
Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm | Image by lev radin/Shutterstock

Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm testified before the Senate Armed Service Committee last Wednesday, telling lawmakers the Biden administration is working to make every vehicle in the U.S. military “climate-friendly.”

Granholm responded to Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst’s line of questioning, stating that she agreed with the Biden plan to make the entire military vehicle fleet electric by 2030.

“I do think that reducing our reliance on the volatility of globally traded fossil fuels where we know that global events like the war in Ukraine can jack up prices for people back home … [would] contribute to energy security,” Granholm said.

The plan to electrify the military fleet will cost taxpayers billions and, according to Senator Ernst, could leave the U.S. dangerously exposed to foreign adversaries.

Ernst called the proposal an “expensive, unreliable product.”

West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the state’s second congressional district, agreed, mocking the plan on Twitter.

“The Biden administration wants a fully-electric fleet of vehicles for the military by 2030. Who’s going to build the tank charging stations behind enemy lines?” Moore tweeted.

Thomas Hochman, a fellow at Citizens Climate Lobby, disagreed with Moore’s reaction to the plan. He emphasized to The Dallas Express that the plan dealt with noncombat vehicles.

“The important distinction here is between the tactical and non-tactical (NTV) fleet; of note is that the exchange between Senator Ernst and Secretary Granholm was technically about the non-tactical fleet, as was the proposed Military Vehicle Fleet Electrification Act,” Hochman said.

He went on to explain that tactical vehicles require a different energy plan than non-tactical vehicles.

“Tactical vehicles are basically any vehicle that is used in combat, combat support, training, or related operations. Non-tactical vehicles are the opposite — they’re usually found on military bases and are used for things like transportation to military appointments, group activities, etc. So their functions and energy requirements are fundamentally different,” Hochman said.

Hochman added that even though Secretary Granholm was referring to noncombat vehicles, Pentagon leaders have made it known that they want to transition combat vehicles to electric power as well.

“The Pentagon has made it pretty clear that it wants to electrify its tactical fleet as well, which will be a much more challenging move,” Hochman said.

Hochman suggested that ending our reliance on petroleum products would cut costs and keep troops safer.

“Our reliance on petroleum is a liability. Delivering fuel can cost the military as much as $1000/gallon. And it’s also a direct safety concern: between 2003 and 2007 in Iraq, 1 out of every 8 casualties resulted from protecting fuel convoys,” Hochman explained.

But an electric fleet does have downsides. Hochman warned that the critical minerals needed to manufacture batteries are located in countries like China.

“Batteries and battery components (esp. critical minerals) are generally not manufactured in the U.S. — this creates its own national security problems. In fact, Congress rejected Biden’s plan to fully electrify the US NTV fleet earlier this year on the grounds that it would increase our reliance on China,” Hochman said.

Hochman added that he believes the investments in the military will help build out civilian electric infrastructure.

“Military investment tends to have positive downstream effects on private sector innovation — I imagine that this will continue to be true in the case of electric vehicles, as the military moves to more deeply integrate EVs and hybrid vehicles into their fleet,” Hochman concluded.

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