Retired general pushes to free troops from fossil fuel tether

May 21, 2014 

The debate about renewable energy often gets stuck in a standoff between liberal and conservatives, environmentalists and business leaders. Leave it to a retired Marine general to come up with a strategy for getting past that barrier with an argument that appeals to both sides and defends the nation’s long-term interests.

Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer, who retired in 2011, is the former commanding general of multi-national forces in Anbar, Iraq, and now an adviser to the Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research and development center for the Navy and Marine Corps. He was in Raleigh on Wednesday as part of his campaign to reduce the military’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Zilmer’s focus isn’t on global warming, but rather on warring around the globe. Zilmer was the commanding general in Iraq’s turbulent Anbar province in 2006 and 2007, and he and his troops were constantly being hit by roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. When he looked at how to reduce Marines’ exposure, he found that the need for fuel increased the number of convoys and enemy targets.

Zilmer is pushing for more funding and research into renewable energy that will allow troops to operate in the field without being tethered to fossil fuels supplies.

“It’s not about being clean. It’s not about being green. It’s about having a force that is lighter, more lethal and more mobile,” he said during a meeting with News & Observer editors.

But first Zilmer is trying to end another battle – the political polarization that obstructs solutions to fossil fuel dependence – by bringing a third perspective focused on national defense

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