Saturday, September 24, 2011

From Barracks to the Battlefield

A look at the new Pew Charitable Trusts report

As one of the largest energy consumers in the world, the US military has the ability to help shape America’s energy future. This is the argument put forward in the new Pew Charitable Trusts report “From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America’s Armed Forces” released on 21 September 2011. This report is a follow up of a previous PEW report called Reenergizing America’s Defense, released in April 2010.

If you question what clean energy got to do with armed forces, then you must read this report. If you consider yourself an expert on this field, like me, you too must read it. You will find some comprehensive and original things.
The report starts with usual cliché: The DOD’s priorities for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources have been driven by recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, where fuel shipments account for 80 percent of all supply convoys. It lists DoD’s major energy challenges: risks associated with transporting liquid fuels to and on the battlefield; growing oil price volatility; the impact of fuel dependence on operational effectiveness; the fragility of energy supplies for forces that must have assured power 24 hours a day; and energy laws and mandates the department must comply with.
The report details how innovation combined with development and deployment of clean energy technologies in the following three key areas can help DoD respond to these energy challenges:

·         more efficient airplanes, ground vehicles, and ship;
·         advanced biofuels with potential for fulfilling military requirements; and
·         energy efficiency, renewable and storage at DOD bases,
DOD’s past efforts, ongoing projects and future plans referring to each of these challenges are documented in fairly compact and up-to-dated format.  However, it is a pity that past efforts of the Air Force are cut very short (no mention of test flight on synthetic fuels derived from coal and gas). It is true that the Navy is front runner today and makes more PR than the other services, a more balanced reporting would have been better.
When one considers that the military fostered the Internet, GPS, computer software and many other important innovations, it becomes clear why the report claims that DOD’s efforts can also do a similar achievement in the field of energy. However, what makes it important is its focus on innovation, something usually ignored by the US military officials, despite the fact that DOD investments in advanced clean energy technologies are tripled to $1.2 billion in the past four years. This amount is expected to double by 2015 and may even reach $10 bn a year by 2030.
Although it is not stated clearly the conclusion of the report is or should be like this: To meet the challenges we face in the 21st century, we must reduce our dependence on any type of energy by changing the way we produce it and by transforming the way we use it less through efficiency and technology development.
The PEW report has two defects that are not obvious to a general reader, but are important for me:
1.      Why do the energy use and (particularly) cost figures presented by DOD services at the end of the report not add up to the figures given in the DOD FY2010 Annual Energy Management Report (AEMR)?
2.      PEW report repeats the mistake concerning energy consumption and costs made in the DOD FY2010 Annual Energy Management Report. I cannot blame the authors for that. Note that energy consumption and costs figures by energy type for Goal Subject Buildings presented in Appendix B of AEMR do not add up. Therefore overall DOD energy consumption and costs figures are slightly over-reported.
The following images from the report is important:

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