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Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Good Idea: Someone at work told me recently that the insanely innovative sports gear known as the Camelbak came out of the military-industrial complex. It turns out that soldiers get thirsty in the desert, and having a backpack filled with water beats the old canteen on the belt hands-down1.

Taken Too Far: Apparently the big diesel vehicles running across the desert (your HumVees, Bradleys, Palladins, Strykers, etc) have their own version of the Camelbak. To get nourishment, the unrefined oil coming right out of the ground suffices as a fuel source2. Lots and lots of crude oil gets used up this way.

Another primary platform, the Army's half-mile-a-gallon M1A2 tanks are powered by inefficient 1960s-design gas turbines enabling to cruise at 3 miles per hour. But 60-to 80 percent of the time, that huge turbine is idling at one percent efficiency to run low power systems like air conditioning and electronics. "Most civilian vehicles would use a small auxiliary power unit to serve such tiny, steady loads efficiently. Tanks don't, because their fuel was assumed to cost about a buck a gallon," said Amory Lovins the report's author.

Check the Rocky Mountains Institute for the latest info.

1Although they freeze up solid in the winter unless you constantly suck on it.
2Same reason that vegetable oil can be used in a diesel


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