WASHINGTON, DC, February 13, 2013 - With the announcement of the indefinite suspension of nuclear refueling of the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the White House has signaled a new shift in naval technology - away from costly and potentially hazardous fossil fuels, towards non-toxic and environmentally stable wind power.
Not letting Republican obstructionism of the budget process go to waste, President Obama’s national defense team is putting together a plan to retrofit US warship with ‘tried-and-true’ sails, taking advantage of free, naturally occurring wind rather than diesel and nuclear fuels that put crews at constant risk of causing an ecological disaster.
Used by many advanced cultures for thousands of years, sails were the environmentally sound propulsion system for naval vessels until the 20th century.
Many experts agree that their return might just usher in a new era of ‘green military technology’ - if it can overcome opposition from the generals and the fossil fuels lobby, whose alleged “concerns” about military readiness only serve to ensure more profits for the military-industrial complex.
“Of all the things that can slow down our response times to situations far away, sails are the least of our problem,” said defense expert Tammy Sdayus of the Progressive Disarmament Institute, a non-partisan think tank for military analysts.
“The amount of time the Pentagon and White House need to evaluate options and make decisions usually takes far longer than the time for a carrier group to move from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Sails will actually help the military pace the White House’s decision-making process, rather than racing out to the scene and then having to wait several months for orders,” she said.
Refitting an aircraft carrier with sails may require some re-engineering, since modern ships are designed for engine propulsion rather than wind power.
Department of the Navy officials are looking at ways not only to retrofit masts onto ship structures, but also to lighten ships in general to increase sail performance.
“A lot of extra weight will have to be removed to match the wooden ship standards,” said Sdayus, pointing out that early US carriers did have wooden flight decks. “The Navy will have to scrap those big steel vessels in favor of wooden hulls and superstructures. Ultimately, it would make total sense to go back to an all-wood fleet and avoid the problem of retrofitting so many ships altogether.”
This is not necessarily good news for the environmentalist movement. Some activists are concerned about over-harvesting of oak and other hardwoods traditionally used in ship building.
“We will need assurances from the President that those ships are made of at least 50% recycled and reclaimed wood,” said Willow Crier , a media liaison with Revolting Green, a forestry watchdog group based in Oregon. “We are confident that the President places the tree census way above such an uncool, violence-based activity like war. This generation of Americans need trees more than they need standing armies and navies.”
“Conflict resolution without war is better for the environment,” Crier added, hoping that the slowdown of naval reaction times may facilitate peace-making processes.
Experts agree that the President’s willingness to cut defense spending signals a new era in conflict resolution, where the show of military strength will no longer be a viable option.
“As a result of the President’s diplomatic efforts, forces of peace and progress are finally taking over the Middle East and other parts of the world,” Sdayus said. “I don’t think any more military adventures will be necessary for years to come.”
While some military analysts have proposed that the U.S. start looking at its drone program to see if unmanned aerial surveillance and strike vehicles can be converted to gliders, not unlike the U2 spy plane, this may not yet be negotiable.
“The drone program allows the President to control the strikes directly from the White House in real time, giving him the much needed emotional relief after a stressful day in the office,” Sdayus noted. “I don’t foresee him abandoning it in the near future.”
Clean, wind-powered U.S. Navy defends New York Harbor.
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