April 30, 2009

Energy Efficiency, vol. 2: Saving Energy -> National Defense

From the LA Times an excellent article on how saving energy promotes national security. Read the full article here.
Military embraces green energy
A Mojave Desert Army base is full of plug-in cars, solar panels and new experiments. Liberal agenda? Nah, it's about saving money, even lives. But the Defense Department could cement a national trend.

By Alexandra Zavis

April 26, 2009


The Department of Defense is the single largest energy consumer in the United States. Last year it bought nearly 4 billion gallons of jet fuel, 220 million gallons of diesel and 73 million gallons of gasoline, said Brian Lally, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment.

American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are using more fuel each day than in any other war in U.S. history. When oil prices spiked last summer, the Defense Department's energy tab shot up from about $13 billion per year in 2006 and 2007 to $20 billion in 2008. The Army alone had to make up a half- billion-dollar shortfall in its energy budget, said Keith Eastin, assistant secretary of the Army for installations and environment.

"That was, I think, a grand wake-up call that we somehow had to get a handle on what is loosely called energy security," Eastin said.

Defense officials now consider reducing consumption and embracing energy alternatives to be national security imperatives. At Ft. Irwin, commanders are experimenting with ways to power the desert training area -- which replicates austere combat conditions -- using wind, solar and organic waste-to-fuel technologies.

When Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard took command of Ft. Irwin in 2007, he was stunned by the cost of housing troops in tents powered by generators, as they often are in Iraq and Afghanistan. A brigade of about 4,000 to 5,000 troops was spending about $3 million to rent the tents and keep the air conditioners humming during a month-long rotation, Pittard said. By building tents covered with two to three inches of insulating foam and a solar- reflective coating, they reduced the generator requirements by 45% to 75%, a technique that is now being used at some larger bases in the war zones.

Estimates are that a $22-million investment to replace all the rented tents at Ft. Irwin with insulated, semi-permanent ones would pay for itself within nine months and could save the Army $100 million over five years, said Eric Gardner, a logistics management specialist at the base.

By reducing generator use, Ft. Irwin also expects to cut carbon emissions by 35 million poundseach year -- equivalent to taking 3,500 vehicles off the road, Gardner said. This year, for the first time, the facility did not need a waiver allowing it to exceed the state of California's emissions standards in the training area, Pittard said.


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