DEFENSE ENVIRONMENT ALERT. MARCH 2, 2010. By Suzanne Yohannan
A new report from the environmental group Global Green USA is recommending the Defense Department undertake a high-level coordinated effort to expand its use of renewable energy, prioritize energy efficiency at its forward operating bases and adopt fuel efficiencies in its tactical systems, in order to reverse what it says is the department’s approach of talking about moving towards energy efficiency but not acting.
While thus far, there have been a great many committees organized, task forces created, and symposiums hosted, there has not been a clear Department-wide directive from the Pentagon that would enable the reevaluation of energy efficiency in line with its real value and initiate a new wave of green defense acquisition,” says the report Defense Sustainability: Energy Efficiency and the Battlefield, released late last month. “Reducing consumption must become an integral part of the mission, rather than a discretionary addendum or public relations buzzword.
The report recommends a multi-pronged solution that involves high-level support. “There must be a coordinated effort led from the top-down to expand domestic renewable energy projects, make forward operating base efficiency a higher priority, improve tactical vehicle performance, and fully realize the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs].” UAVs are much more fuel efficient than manned aircraft, the report says.
Among various examples of the Pentagon failing to address energy issues, the report cites the instance of Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer’s urgent request in 2006 to higher-ups asking for alternative energy solutions to reduce the number of fuel convoys in Iraq, which in turn would be expected to lower casualties.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff took a year to review and deny his request, citing a lack of mature technologies, the report says, but it notes that Zilmer even cited a readily available mobile power system designed for plug-and-play operation in a rugged environment. “The Pentagon’s lethargy in responding to his renewable power request and disappointing decision a year later has become something of a trend,” the report says.
It references the slowness of follow-through on DOD’s announcement in 2007 to include the fully burdened cost of fuel (FBCF) in tactical weapon system analyses and to improve the systems’ energy efficiency.
FBCF is supposed to be piloted in three acquisition programs -- the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), a next generation missile cruiser and the B-2/B-52 long-range bomber replacement -- but these generally won’t yield results in the near future, making FBCF “a long-term conceptual goal, rather than a useful tool to combat many of DOD’s current energy challenges,” the report says. It also points to the fact that the recent flurry of mine and ambush resistant vehicles (MRAP) acquisitions came only after a year and a half of growing pleas for more bomb-resistant vehicles.
The report also criticizes the Navy secretary’s recent pledge to create a “Great Green Fleet” where the service is expected to field an entire carrier group with “green” fuels by 2016.
But this goal focuses on developing alternative fuels, rather than trying to boost fuel efficiency or replace fossil fuel with renewable fuels, it says. This is a problem because existing alternative fuels can be costly and just as environmentally destructive as conventional petroleum, it says. “Therefore, the Great Green Fleet concept and other alternative fuel initiatives like it will do little to address the fiscal, environmental, and mobility challenges that plague DOD’s current energy consumption habits and simply serve as distractions from the real issues.
And despite the defense secretary’s creation of the Energy Security Task Force in 2006 -- designed to create an actionable investment roadmap to lower DOD fossil fuel consumption -- the report says there has been little change in DOD’s attitude toward energy security.
“If the Energy Security Task Force were indeed composed of senior leaders from across the Department interested in taking a systems approach, integrating different functional areas, and better understanding the indirect consequences of DOD’s energy decisions, programs like the MRAP and JLTV would look much different today and programs like Project Eskimo would be expanded.” Project Eskimo was an experiment that involved covering 79 temporary structures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Djibouti with spray-foam insulation to cut down on air conditioning and heating costs, resulting in an energy savings of between 40 and 70 percent.
“Instead carbon emissions have increased, energy expenditures soared by nearly $7 billion in [fiscal year] 2008 alone, and renewable energy generation remains miniscule.
The full report is available here.