The Daily Caller website just published a short article by Michael Bastasch titled "Getting the lead out, literally: US Army plans switch to 'green' bullets".
Green bullets? It appears that the Obama administration is once more pandering to rabid environmentalists by requiring the Army to re-engineer the bullets our men and women in the field use in combat to be more "environmentally friendly". To accomplish this, the military is replacing the lead in bullets with copper. Because the Army doesn't believe in half measures, the Program Executive Officer, Col. Phil Clark has said that they have already eliminated 1,994 metric tons of lead from the military's 5.56mm rounds, and as this program expands to the 7.62mm round, he reports that the total lead reduction in our small arms munitions 3,683 metric tons between 2013 and 2018. A metric ton is 1,000kg, or about 2,200 pounds, so 3,683 metric tons is approximately 8.1 million pounds of lead is the amount the Army will remove from its ammunition over the next five years.
Naturally, the idea of reducing all that lead, which is of course a toxic substance, from the environment is an admirable goal. Almost any time we, as a society can reduce the unnecessary dispersion of toxins, we should consider it a win.
However, the current spot price of lead is $0.94 per pound. The current spot price of copper, on the other hand, is $3.21 per pound. That is a difference of $2.27, or to look at it another way, copper is 341% more costly than lead.
When that cost differential is applied to the additional 3,683 metric tons of copper that must be acquired to replace the lead component of these small arms rounds, the total is $18,431,000.
Nearly twenty million dollars, not to improve the effectiveness of the ammunition used by our troops, but to protect the environment.
One has to wonder if the environmentalists realize that means that there will be 3,683 metric tons of copper that will have to be mined and refined. It means that those 3,683 metric tons will be lost forever, since there is no way to recycle the copper once a round is fired. Are the troops supposed to retrieve the spent rounds by digging them out of the enemy's corpses so that the copper can be retrieved and recycled?
The whole purpose of small arms ammunition is to do one of the two things that the military is supposed to do, which was once described by a wag as "kill people and break stuff." There was no mention of the military being a social service agency.
Now, apparently, we want to make sure that the bullets that we give our soldiers will kill the enemy, while at the very same time hold the planet harmless.
These same "green" bullets will not protect our men and women any more effectively. They will not kill the enemy any more humanely. These new, copper rich bullets, will never be able to be recycled, so the mining of copper must be increased, while lead mining will be reduced, with at least some contraction in the employment needed in extraction and processing of the lead that will no longer be consumed.
The increased consumption of copper in bullets will increase demand for copper, and since Congress had absolutely nothing to do with drafting the Law of Supply and Demand, the spot price of copper will increase in some small amount, but increase in cost it will. This will inevitably increase the cost of electronic devices that use copper. It will add to the cost of a wiring a new home, having an adverse impact on the housing industry. The Treasury Department already wants to discontinue the penny due to the cost of producing it. A rising cost of copper will only add impetus to that, and might encourage them to repeat the response to a copper shortage during WWII, and produce pennies from steel.
But Progressive, über-radical environmentalists will cherish the feeling that they are "protecting the planet". They will feel the effects, however, of another law. This one seems to work its way into every piece of legislation created by Congress no matter how smart they think they are.
It's the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller, a two-tour Vietnam veteran and writes frequently about political idiocy, business and economic idiocy and American cultural idiocy. Jim also blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com/, and can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org