There are a lot of great bits in Dave Roberts's interview with Amory Lovins, the quirky energy expert who's (rightly) obsessed with decentralized energy generation and efficiency improvements. But check out what Lovins has to say about U.S. efforts to fix Iraq's electricity problem:

Some of us have made three attempts at [bringing decentralized power to Iraq] and there's a fourth now under discussion. The first three attempts, the third of which was backed by the Iraqi power minister, were vetoed by the U.S. political authorities on the grounds that they'd already given big contracts to Bechtel, Halliburton, et. al to rebuild the old centralized system, which of course the bad guys are knocking down faster than it can be put back up.

I've never seen that reported anywhere else. There's also this passage:

Meanwhile, about a third of our army's wartime fuel use is for generator sets, and nearly all of that electricity is used to air-condition tents in the desert, known as "space cooling by cooling outer space." We recently had a two-star Marine general commanding in western Iraq begging for efficiency and renewables to untether him from fuel convoys, so he could carry out his more important missions. This is a very teachable moment for the military. The costs, risks, and distractions of fuel convoys and power supplies in theater have focused a great deal of senior military attention on the need for not dragging around this fat fuel-logistics tail -- therefore for making military equipment and operations several-fold more energy efficient.

Well, it would certainly be ironic if one of the by-products of the war in Iraq was that the Pentagon started paying more attention to renewable energy and distributed power generation--which, in turn, helped drive green technology for the rest of the country. But that might be getting too far ahead here...

--Bradford Plumer