Greener Military: Defense Department's Energy Strategy Debated

By Smith, Jeff | National Defense, July 2009 | Go to article overview
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Greener Military: Defense Department's Energy Strategy Debated


Smith, Jeff, National Defense


The Defense Department is making progress reducing energy demand, but it has a long way to go to meet the federal government's aggressive targets, military and government officials said.

Cutting energy consumption is critical to U.S. security and in responding to climate change, but there are no easy solutions, officials said at the National Defense Industrial Association's Environment, Energy and Sustainability Symposium and Exhibition in Denver.

"Energy efficiency goals cannot be met without Defense Department leadership," said Richard Kidd, the Energy Department's federal energy management program director. "We need to do more, invest more. Otherwise we might not meet the goals."

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act calls for total energy use in federal buildings to be reduced 30 percent by 2015 from 2005 levels. Similar goals for federal agencies to reduce "energy intensity" and greenhouse gas emissions were set forth in President Bush's Executive Order 13423.

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President Barack Obama and Congress, meanwhile, have been working on comprehensive climate change legislation.

The Defense Department has a critical role in meeting the government's targets

because it expends the bulk of the government's energy resources. The Pentagon burns slightly more than 1 percent of the 21 million barrels of oil that the United States consumes each year. The fuel bill for the Defense Department was $20 billion last year--a jump from $13 billion in 2007

The Defense Department has reduced energy demand somewhat in recent years, but its performance is below average compared to other federal agencies.

"Quite frankly, the Department of Defense was kind of late in coming to the table of energy renewables," Kidd said.

The Defense Department faces a more difficult challenge than the government as a whole, Pentagon officials said.

Its 350,000 buildings account for only 20 percent of its total energy consumption, said A1 Shaffer, executive director of the Defense Energy Security Task Force.

The remaining 80 percent is for deployed military forces, including support and operational units in Iraq and Afghanistan. A large portion of the energy equation is fuel--and more than 70 percent of that is jet fuel.

Shaffer said he appreciates that the Energy Department's federal energy management program and National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., are helping the Defense Department to become more energy efficient.

"But at the end of the day, the Department of Defense has some unique problems," Shaffer said. "I have to remind you we're still a nation at war."

Shaffer said the high demand for generators in battlefield areas has required an additional 20,000 tanker trucks to provide fuel. Transporting generators, fuel and other equipment is a risky business, with lives lost because of attacks on convoys.

"Energy and energy security and the logistics of moving things are huge," he said.

Shaffer said he doesn't agree that the Defense Department has lagged in its efforts to cut energy consumption.

He noted Defense has tripled its spending on energy initiatives from $440 million in fiscal year 2006 to $1.2 billion in this fiscal year, and has reduced energy demand 6 percent since 2005.

"And we're starting to play energy in war games," he said.

Tad Davis, the Army's deputy assistant secretary of environment, safety and occupational health, said that ways to improve performance include bringing energy-efficiency efforts into the mainstream of what the Army is doing, rather than treating them as add-ons. He also recommended focusing on the things that make the most difference.

"It's incumbent to act now," Davis said. With so much public attention on the issue, "we don't want to lose the opportunity."

The Army also is looking at how it can better articulate to leaders what it is trying to do, Davis said.

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