Thursday, March 01, 2007

Comments on Testimony by Michael Aimone

On February 27, 2007 the US Senate Committee on Finance held a meeting about “America’s Energy Future: Bold Ideas, Practical Solutions.” (see video for especially Q&A). One of the witnesses was Michael A. Aimone, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Installations and Mission Support, U.S. Air Force. The title of his written Statement entitled “Air Force Energy Strategy for the 21st Century” outlined recent achievements to improve USAF energy use.

In the aftermath of the hurricanes in summer 2005 the USAF has started to formulate a new energy strategy to guide its energy efforts. The vision of the strategy “Make energy a consideration in all we do” has three pillars:

1. “ensuring energy supply side availability of fuel for our aircraft, ground vehicles, and equipment, as well as reliable utility services to our installations to meet Combatant Commander requirements.”

2. “implementing aggressive demand side fuel optimization and energy efficiency initiatives laser-focused on each of our three energy sectors: aviation operations, ground transportation and support equipment, and installations.”

3. “to ensure that our strategy transcends the present to create a lasting culture of change in all Airmen so that energy becomes a consideration in all we do.”

Mr. Aimone stated that “The Air Force has an aggressive facility energy conservation program that achieved an impressive 30% reduction in energy use over the past 20 years.” However, he didn’t mentioned how much of that reduction came from privatization of some buildings and how much from real conversation efforts.

Then he mentioned the USAF’s goal of having “right-sized” ground general purpose vehicle fleet, with which he meant the purchase of at least 30% of our new vehicle requirement as Low Speed Vehicles (or Neighborhood Electric Vehicles). Watch out the words he used. What is the right-size anyway?

Here comes a nice paragraph: “Over 80% of the Air Force annual $7B energy bill goes to fueling our aircraft. Our new strategy is committed to root-out waste and implement greater efficiencies in aviation operations. We have set an aggressive target to reduce aviation fuel use by 10% over the next six years.” I will come to this point in a while.

How the USAF intends to do that? “through a series of operational changes by our pilots and aircraft maintenance specialists – some changes are as simple as reducing unneeded weight on aircraft. For example, every 100 pounds of excess weight removed from one of our strategic airlift aircraft results in an annual savings of 240,000 gallons of aviation fuel…. eliminating the practice of standard ramp (fuel) loads to reduce the amount of excess fuel planes land with….Additional efforts to move training events to simulators, updating ground operation procedures, and establishing a culture of air crew awareness and fuel use accountability…” Good examples indeed.

Then he described the USAF’s significant accomplishments:

“The Air Force in Fiscal Year 2006 remained the largest green power purchaser of electricity – over 990,000 MWHrs -- in the Federal Government, and 3rd largest in the United States, according to a recently published Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Partnership report,” he said. But the final 2006 figures (published in January 2007) in the same report is half of what he claimed.

Further, he said that the USAF has “installed over 7 Megawatts of on-site wind energy and solar photovoltaic and landfill gas systems at a number of our bases. These systems provide renewable energy for our installations, but also provide for increased energy security in the event of the loss of electric power from the grid due to natural disaster or enemy attack.” Enemy attacking an Air Force base in the US? Note that all those green bases are located in the US.

How about the real stuff? I mean liquid fuels?

On Biofuels: “Nearly 8% of our diesel fuel is B20…Our efforts to expand the use of E85 for our Flex Fueled Vehicle fleet is less successful. This is because E85, and its infrastructure, is not currently available at the majority of our installations. However, we are ready -- we have 4,479 FlexFuel vehicles in our fleet….We continue to grow the fleet and convert our infrastructure to B-20 and E-85. Indeed, today, 58 Air Force Bases are dispensing B20, and 16 bases are dispensing E85.” Except for B20 this issue will create more problems than solution.

On B-52 Synfuel tests he mentioned that “It is our plan, if the detailed analysis of the test results and physical inspections prove out, to certify the entire inventory of B-52s for unrestricted flight operations using a SynFuel blend by the end of the year.”

Not finished: “We recognize that Gas-to-Liquids do not assure the Air Force a dependable supply of jet fuel, since domestic natural gas production is insufficient to meet the Nation’s needs. The production of SynFuel from coal, oil shale and biomass sources would solve this constraint; however, there are considerable technical, environmental, and economic issues that remain to be worked out.”

Now let’s reconsider what Mr. Aimone said above “We have set an aggressive target to reduce aviation fuel use by 10% over the next six years.” Himmm. Amount or cost or both? It is the Finance Committee, no? why he is not asked about the costs?

He certainly does not read my blog (kidding). I refer him my earlier post Fill up the B-52 with Synthetic Fuel.

First of all, it is not possible in the next 6 years or 16 years to reduce the amount of aviation fuel use if you use synfuel because it is less efficient than conventional oil. Second, a gallon of synthetic JP-8 costs over $20 per gallon, more than 5 times of the cost of conventional JP-8.

What truck me is that Mr. Aimone testified before the US Senate Finance Committee. With finance I only picture $$$? But I wonder why he was not asked about how much those alternatives he described would cost per gallon?

Snyfuel from coal? Good luck. Produce that in sufficient commercial quantity and try to fill a B-52, but do not look at the fuel bill.

From oil shale? Let me remind him what the experienced people in oil industry say: Oil shale was the fuel of the future 30 years ago. Today it is again the fuel of the future, and always will be.

There was only one moment that was very interesting for me. Senator Grassley asked what I would have asked and what I have been always asking on my blog: “How much oil does the Air Force consume and how much of it is in abroad?”

Here is Mr. Aimone’s answer: The Air Force consumed 2.6 billion gallons of liquid fuels in FY2006. 80% of that amount was for aviation. 65-70% of that 2.6 billion gallon is used domestically and the rest in abroad. Note that 2.6 billion gallon makes 62 million barrels per year or 170,000 barrels per day.

Tags: US Air Force, B-52, Synthetic fuel, Air Force Energy Strategy, Oil Consumption

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