In Box

The FP Quiz

Are you a globalization junkie? Then test your knowledge of global trends, economics, and politics with 8 questions about how the world works.  

1. If the United States deported all its illegal immigrants at once, how long would the bus convoy be?

a) 18 miles   b) 180 miles   c) 1,800 miles

2. The world's wind-power generation capacity increased how much in 2009?

a) 11 percent  b) 21 percent  c) 31 percent

3. Which country had the highest rate of economic growth in 2009?

a) Afghanistan   b) China    c) Qatar

4. In 2009, China produced 568 million metric tons of crude steel. How much did the No. 2 country produce?

a) 88 million metric tons    b) 298 million   c) 458 million

5. Which country spends the most time on social-networking websites?

a) Australia   b) Japan   c) United States

6. Which country had the lowest rate of economic growth in 2009?

a) Latvia         b) Lithuania    c) Iceland

7. How much did new-car registrations change last year globally?

a) 14 percent decrease    b) no change    c) 7 percent increase

8. By how many percentage points did worldwide unemployment change from 1999 to 2009?

a) up 0.2 points    b) up 1.2 points   c) up 2.2 points

Answers on the next page.

Answers to the FP Quiz

1) C, 1,800 miles. To deport the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States en masse, it would take more than 200,000 buses, stretching more than 1,800 miles, according to a Center for American Progress report. The cost would be nearly $300 billion over five years.

2) C, 31 percent. The economy may have been sputtering along in 2009, but wind turbines were spinning furiously, with installed wind-power capacity increasing nearly a third from 120.6 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2008 to 157.9 GW by the end of 2009, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. China more than doubled its wind-power capacity, overtaking Spain -- where Don Quixote famously tilted at windmills -- for the No. 3 spot. At this rate, it could soon surpass No. 2 Germany and No. 1 United States.

3) A, Afghanistan. The insurgent-overrun country may have a per capita GDP of only $461 and an unemployment rate of 40 percent, but its economy was booming last year at an estimated rate of 15.7 percent, according to the IMF. Much of that growth was due to internationally backed reconstruction programs, as well as private construction and services, such as the $1.5 billion invested in telecom since 2003. Meanwhile the economy of oil-rich Qatar, the second fastest-growing, expanded 11.5 percent, and No. 3 China increased its GDP 8.5 percent.

4) A, 88 million metric tons. In 2009, world crude-steel production tumbled 8 percent compared with 2008, as construction projects were put on hold during the Great Recession. But China has been building large amounts of infrastructure and increased its steel production 13.5 percent to 567.8 million metric tons, 47 percent of the world's total, according to the World Steel Association. That's 6.5 times the 87.5 million metric tons that No. 2 Japan produced and 2.6 times what China itself produced a mere six years earlier in 2003.

5) A, Australia. Aussie users of social-networking sites spent an average of almost seven hours on activities such as twittering and "friending" people in December 2009, according to media-information firm Nielsen. American social networkers were similarly addicted, with 6 hours, 9 minutes, that month, while the Japanese, at 2 hours, 50 minutes, appear to spend their time on other activities. Overall, social networking is more and more of a time-suck. In the 10 countries analyzed by Nielsen, average social-networking time increased 82 percent, from just over three hours in December 2008 to five and a half hours in December 2009. [Update, June 9, 2010: The new answer, based on more recent information from Nielsen, is Italy. Please see this Passport post.]

6) B, Lithuania. Lithuania's economy shrank 18.5 percent in 2009, while the decrease was 18 percent in Latvia and 14 percent in Estonia, according to IMF estimates. From 2000 to 2007, the Baltic economies were roaring, in part due to economic liberalization and relatively low-cost labor. But the credit boom turned into a credit crunch with the financial crisis. Although Lithuania had a slightly worse economic crash last year, Latvia has received much attention due to the 7.5 billion euro bailout it received from the European Union, the IMF, and others in 2008 and the collapse of its government in February 2009.

7) A, 14 percent decrease. The rising middle classes in China and India may have been buying cars like crazy, and governments may have tried to stimulate their economies with various "cash for clunkers" programs, but with the economic downturn, 2009 was the worst year on record for automakers, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. But new-car registrations are forecast to rise 4.7 percent this year, with the Asia-Pacific region leading the way with nearly 20 million passenger-car registrations.

8) A, up 0.2 percentage points. Although the roughly 10 percent unemployment rate in many developed countries has received much attention, in the decade from 1999 to 2009, worldwide unemployment increased relatively slightly from 6.4 to 6.6 percent, according to International Labour Organization estimates. Currently, East Asian workers are doing the best, facing a 4.4 percent unemployment rate in 2009, down from 4.7 percent in 1999.

In Box

Green Monster

The gas guzzlers at the Pentagon are under orders to get ecofriendly. The impact could be huge.  

The U.S. military isn't exactly underworked, what with salvaging Afghanistan, helping out Haiti, fighting off pirates, and getting out of Iraq. But now, it has been handed a new mission: leading the campaign to cut back on foreign oil, in the interests of both national security and saving the planet. The Defense Department certainly has the money, the technology, the intellectual capital, and the pull in the marketplace to make or break the environmental movement. And when it puts its top minds on a problem, there's a long track record of world-changing breakthroughs (the Internet, for one). But will the Pentagon really make the move to go green when there's so much else on its plate?

Take Afghanistan. After eight years of combat there -- and despite decades of advancements in alternative power and fuel -- the U.S. military is still waging war as if oil were an unlimited resource, and free. The wind howls at Camp Leatherneck, the Marine Corps' main base in southern Afghanistan. But there are no wind turbines there. The sun beats down more than 300 days per year on the growing array of semipermanent headquarters and piles of corrugated metal shipping containers. But Leatherneck only has a small handful of solar panels, to power a few gadgets. Troops go from one side of the base to the other in clunky old pickup trucks or Humvees that get about 8 miles to the gallon. Nearly 200 diesel generators run constantly. Because of waste, poor insulation, inefficiency, and redundancy, fully 89 percent of the electricity they produce for the base is wasted. It's one of the reasons why the U.S. military is burning 22 gallons of diesel per soldier per day in Afghanistan, at a cost of more than $100,000 a person annually.

Decades ago, the Defense Department was a world leader in developing new sources of energy. In 1961, the Navy commissioned the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Three years later, the sea service began looking into tapping the geothermal energy around its China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in California. But it took 29 years for China Lake's geothermal plant to reach full power. A few Pentagon-backed alternative-power efforts have been more successful: a massive solar array at Nellis Air Force Base and a sizable wind farm at Guantánamo Bay, for instance. Until recently, however, those projects were the exception, not the rule. Energy efficiency has often taken a back seat to other tactical or strategic considerations.

A new crop of green-minded Pentagon leaders has begun ambitious projects to change that. The military R&D arm that paved the way for the Internet is now focusing on algal feedstock for biofuel and next-generation solar panels. One of the world's largest solar-power projects is planned for the Army's main training center, at Fort Irwin, Calif. Billions in stimulus money were spent to green military facilities. Then again, we're talking about transforming an organization that currently consumes a million barrels of petroleum every three days.

The Defense Department in recent years has warned over and over about the dangers of climate change and the risks in relying on unstable petro-regimes. The problem is that where the military uses the most oil -- in fuels that power combat hardware -- it also faces the steepest obstacles to technical and institutional reform.

The Pentagon recently set ambitious targets to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by a third in 10 years. However, that figure exempts the military's bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the jets, ships, and ground vehicles that swallow up 75 percent of the military's fuel supply. A single B-52 bomber, for instance, burns 3,500 gallons of fuel per flight hour. Efforts to green military vehicles have largely flopped. In 2004, the Army abandoned its hybrid Humvee project, supposedly because the electric powertrain wasn't reliable enough. (It rebooted part of the project last year.) In 2006, the Air Force flew just a single B-52 test mission using a synthetic fuel blend developed more than six decades earlier, in Nazi Germany.

 

Another reason reform is so difficult is that the current systems for delivering power and fuel to war zones are reliable, if inefficient and unsustainable. Military leaders don't want to jeopardize operations in Afghanistan or Iraq for something perceived as experimental or risky. In 2008, U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan consumed an eye-popping 90 million gallons of fuel each month, representing 20 percent of the Defense Department's fuel purchases. "For the battlefield commander, his only concern is: Can he carry out the mission that his civilian commanders have asked him to do? End of story," says Drexel Kleber, director of strategic operations for the Pentagon's Power Surety Task Force. The bar is especially high because military vehicles must operate in some of the harshest conditions and terrain on the planet. A Prius potentially sputtering out on the highway back home is inconvenient; an armored vehicle stalling in the Mesopotamian desert or the Hindu Kush can be deadly.

A classic illustration of the dilemma came in 2006, when Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, then the head of coalition forces in western Iraq, sent a "Priority 1" request to the Pentagon for renewable power stations. Constantly resupplying bases with diesel, which required enormous fuel caravans that were an easy target for improvised explosive devices or ambushes, was putting his Marines at risk of "serious and grave casualties" on Iraq's dangerous roadways. In one month, 44 trucks and 220,000 gallons of fuel were lost. To Zilmer, it wasn't a question of conserving gas or keeping troops alive. The two issues were one and the same. But the Joint Chiefs of Staff eventually negged the request -- the technology wasn't ready for prime time, the brass claimed. That was a strange answer, given that the Pentagon had set up the power task force. Yet it was also a typical case of bureaucratic inertia.

Renewed interest seemed to come in January 2009, when a White House run by former oilmen was replaced by one that vowed to take environmental issues much more seriously. The Pentagon for the first time named a single person to oversee the armed forces' disparate "operational energy" programs. The Defense Department's chief weapons-buyer announced that energy efficiency would now be a key factor in the Pentagon's purchasing decisions. The Army signed a deal to build one of the planet's largest installations of solar panels. As Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told me, "President Obama has been very explicit in his desire to reduce dependence on foreign oil."

Mabus has made greening the Navy his signature issue. His most audacious vision might be what he calls the "Great Green Fleet." The United States has 11 carrier strike groups -- aircraft carriers and their associated support ships. These groups are the symbol of U.S. naval might. They're the first forces to deploy when there's trouble in the Persian Gulf, the Taiwan Strait, or Haiti. Mabus's idea is to turn one of these groups into an environmentally friendly armada by 2016 to demonstrate that some of the military's biggest gas guzzlers don't have to stay that way. But as of now, there's still no money in the Navy's budget for the project, and the service has just one hybrid-electric ship. It aims to test its very first fighter jet powered by biodiesel on Earth Day; in March Obama gave his energy speech standing in front of that F-18 fighter jet, nicknamed "Green Hornet." Still, even Mabus's own energy specialists aren't sure what "deploying" the Great Green Fleet will really mean. "It'll depend on the supply chain. If they go over the horizon and 30 days later they have to go back to regular fuel because there's not enough biofuel, then so be it," says Chris Tindal, deputy director for renewable energy in the Navy's Energy Office.

If Mabus's alt-fueled fleet does finally set sail, it would mark a massive turning point after decades of talk: The Pentagon is finally ready to go green for real.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images