Green Industry Has Failed? Tell That to the Marines!

recycling marines go green

Camp Pendleton Marines.

Response to Jonah Goldberg Los Angeles Times Op-Ed  piece entitled “America’s green quagmire

In the opinion page of the LA Times, Johan Goldberg derivatively states that since 1977, “we’ve been hearing that green must become the new red, white and blue.” Mr. Goldberg is referring to the number of years that it has taken alternative energy to take root. He conveniently omits the president that immediately followed Carter was the same one that took down solar panels atop the white house.

At the time President Carter made it his moral imperative to move us away from foreign oil at a time when Middle Eastern countries held an embargo against us, literally choking our life blood. Over two decades later, instability in the Middle East have led to record high gas prices. Yet Mr. Goldberg states that it was all “nonsense,” adding that the U.S can drill its way out of energy dependence right here in America, somehow not mentioning that the “America” he is referring to includes Canada and Mexico. While Canada and Mexico are our friends, this would technically still be considered dependence on foreign oil.

Perhaps, had the nation taken a different path into alternative energy we wouldn’t have had the first Gulf War and the conflicts that followed. Instead, what we’ve heard since Bush senior and junior are proclamations of America’s power and status while ignoring environmental concerns worldwide and denying our conflicts in the middle east are over oil. However, the military doesn’t deny these concerns are real.

Goldberg states that the goal posts are continually changing when it comes to the “green revolution” and asks whether it has been good for energy independence, jobs, or global warming. Goldberg needs only ask the military, which is rapidly moving into green technology to not only save the environment, but to save lives. But Goldberg appears to be a “Johnny come lately” to these apparent truths. When you put everything in perspective, the military has been leading on this for quite a while.

Almost 18 years ago a young private checked out of Marine Corps boot camp and into his first duty station – Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow situated alongside the route to Las Vegas and where this young Marine would get taught a lesson, the lesson of a lifetime.

While stationed at the base my duties were in warehousing and supply. I then received training in hazardous materials and storage. Additional duties included working in the base recycling facility, which included picking up recyclables and then working in the base housing office.

In those days recycling was just a concept, but something that needed to be done in order to preserve the environment. These concepts were new in those days. Consider that residential recycling efforts were barely taking root in the early 90’s. I remember learning about sustainability and water saving techniques, along with the words “going green.”

These concepts may have been new for the military back then, but they are not now and it isn’t new to thousands of troops serving these days in our modern military.

Along with the combat training that I received in boot camp, the most invaluable training that I received didn’t involve weapons at all. One little known fact is that military installations are often stewards of the environment around them. Take for example Camp Pendleton, which has over 125,000 acres of land. Within this base roams buffalo and other wild creatures that include native plants. Barstow is much the same, in the vast expanse of desert, roams the desert tortoise and a fragile environment indeed.

After two combat tours in Iraq and duty in other locations I was curious. I went back on a visit to see the progress that has been made at the logistics base since I was stationed there and I was speechless. Along with the 60 foot wind turbine that has been built since 2009, which produces about 1.5 megawatts of electricity, are solar panels on buildings and on top of my old barracks. Driving along the base you’ll see desert landscaping and electric vehicles charging at stalls. I walked into a building and picked up a poster
proclaiming leadership in being the first to build a megawatt wind turbine.

Mr. Goldberg, you tell the Marines that the green revolution has failed and they’ll tell you that the Marines don’t know how to fail. All throughout military installations solar panels and wind turbines are being built saving and preserving the environment, while also reducing greenhouse emissions. This “can do” attitude is what is needed in America, an attitude where our public officials proclaim that leadership is installing the first solar panels on houses and buildings in their district. But, where is this leadership at?

I guess what is lacking in Mr. Goldberg’s assessment that the green industry is “nonsense” is the guts to ask the Marines why they proclaim that leadership is going green?

mario rivasWhile there is some leadership in the D.C. beltway by both parties, there should be more leadership on this locally, especially in small communities that could use a break on their energy bills. Maybe spending on energy could be replaced by spending at a local restaurant where the money goes directly into helping the local economy. Maybe, just maybe, this could be the solution to high unemployment and long protracted conflicts over foreign oil, and even world peace.

Mario Rivas
Veterans Caucus of the California Democratic Party

Mario Rivas is an Iraq War Veteran and is currently serving in the California Army National Guard. He currently works in the City of Huntington Park as an Environmental Specialist.   


  1. in_awe says

    Mario, let me start by thanking you for your service to the nation as a Marine.

    I think that the argument isn’t whether the green technology works at all, it is whether it is economically feasible given its current efficiency ratios and cost per unit of energy delivered compared with other traditional sources of energy. I can think of more than one government program that was instituted to implement policy that ran afoul of economic reality, but persisted not as proof of the underlying economics, but rather the political determination of the sponsor.

    The Marines, along with the other services, are sometimes used as captive environments in which to try experiments deemed interesting by members of Congress. The Corps usually isn’t offered the opportunity to gracefully decline its participation in the experiment because lurking behind the “offer” is a threat that its funding for another desired purpose might be jeopardized by its uncooperative stance.

    Another possibility is that providing more traditional power to the extremely remote Twenty-Nine Palms area would have been monumentally expensive regarding infrastructure. Again, this is not the situation with the vast majority of locations where there is existing infrastructure to serve the needs of consumers. In those normal situations the comparative cost at the margin of providing incremental service comes down to the case where the payback period for domestic electricity generation via roof mounted solar panels is 40 years. Meanwhile, the average lifespan of the solar components is 20-25 years at best.

    The US military uses miniature nuclear power sources on satellites, but I doubt that you are suggesting that we put one of those puppies in each home in America. As you may have noticed, the three solar corporations touted by this administration and supported by federal financial assistance have all failed. Until Obama achieves his stated intention of creating skyrocketing power costs, alternative energy use will remain uneconomical in virtually all instances.

    • Scott says

      Like most anti-environmentalists, in_awe states fiction as fact. The claim that solar panels have a 40 year payback is laughable. Perhaps in Antarctica, but we’re talking about California, where paybacks are universally under 10 years, and usually much less. And that presumes constant utility rates, which we know cannot happen as peak oil impacts become greater. in_awe pretends to be patriotic by saluting the Marines, but in actuality he wants the US to be dependent on foreign oil and entrenched in 100 year old technology while Germany leads the rest of the world into a cleaner future. Perhaps in_awe should explain to us what is so enticing about the cancer, asthma, and other diseases cause by his fossil fuels after he explains to us why he wants America to be backwards and dependent.

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