Drop astronomy and space exploration – spend on air conditioning

An article published by the NPR reveals the astonishing detail that part of the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq includes $20 billion spent on air-conditioning. This figure was estimated by Brigadier General Steven Anderson, a now -retired chief logistician for the Pentagon.

So let’s see:

  • NASA annual budget – $5 bn (2011)
  • Estimated cost to finish and Launch James Webb – $3 bn
  • Estimated cost to build a space elevator – $6-20 bn
And $20 billion is a fraction of what is spent annually in Afghanistan and Iraq in total.

Even this doesn’t scratch the surface of the sheer waste involved here. The article goes on to detail how the fuel to power all this air-conditioning is transported through extremely risky convoys, putting countless lives at on the line.

Of course, you could argue that the soldiers are putting their lives at risk to protect democracy and deserve to be comfortable, though that argument might not stand up to scrutiny. But there’s more to it even than that.

These soldier’s are living in temporary shelters – tents. Now everyone knows that tents aren’t great insulators – anyone who has spent a couple of cold days in one can tell you that. Well, all of these tents could be cheaply insulated using  polyurethane foam spray, which cuts energy use by over 90%.

So the U.S. could save lives, cut energy costs, finance all of NASA, a space telescope and go a long way to building a space elevator – just by insulating tents.

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