Not even the military is immune to the effects of climate change. Subsequently, armed forces across the world are examining how best to reduce their environmental impact with the integration of sustainable fuels being one of the methods in consideration. Different forms of sustainable fuels exist, ranging from hydrogen, electric, nuclear, to ‘drop-in’ sustainable fuels (biofuels, fuels from waste, and anything formed from hydrocarbon molecules) that can be used in combustion engines. However, the adoption of these fuels by armed forces won’t be uniform or immediate due to the impact that geography, both physical and human, can have.
Madeline Wild, GlobalData associate defense analyst, comments: “Sustainable fuels, especially those that are classified as ‘drop-in’, offer real potential to help militaries reduce their carbon footprint, and have been touted as one way that the UK may reach its net-zero goal by 2050. However, the extent and success of their uptake will largely be determined by geography; not all sources of energy are suitable for different locations, especially when a desire to source energy locally is considered. For example, geothermal energy is a good renewable source, however only select nations can access this power source, with wind farms and solar power also largely dependent on environment.
“Furthermore, the political situation of different scenarios will impinge upon their availability. A good example of this is the restrictions on nuclear technology in New Zealand where the armed forces will have to look to alternative fuels besides nuclear energy, with non-military government-led initiatives in drop-in fuels already established.
“A concern that is beginning to grow amongst NATO members is how the integration of sustainable fuels will affect the single fuel concept in place within Nato, if different nations adopt different alternative fuels due to their geography. Members are individually pursuing different fuel capabilities and thus any future disjunction over how things are powered will have to be addressed by Nato otherwise there is potential for cohesive joint operation to be put at stake.”