Reliable, affordable and uninterrupted supply of energy
to run the American war machine is crucial for ensuring mission capabilities
and effectiveness of the US military. Therefore, incorporating energy security
considerations at the strategic, tactical, and operational levels is
In Its Top Issues 2012, the National Defense Industrial Association places “Promote
Energy Security While Reducing Costs” as the most important challenge for the
“The past decade has witnessed a transformation of
philosophy within the military for energy security and reliability. The change
emerged internally and pragmatically from field commanders’ needs for combat
effectiveness, a reliable supply of fuels and force protection.. Each
service has embraced and fielded innovative renewable and alternative energy
production technologies, and has invested resources to find and apply energy
efficiencies in infrastructure and standard practices..”
The concern of the US military is twofold: electrical
grid security and oil supply security. In other words, vulnerabilities in both
the liquid fuels for operational use as well as the grid that supplies
electrical power at installations both domestically and overseas. Progress so
far on those issues has showed its good, bad and ugly sides.
It is true that much has been done to assure military energy
security but as the NDIA mentions “Nonetheless, some critical work to achieving
energy security remains to be done.”
Nuclear Power Technology (small modular reactors).
Open the Door to
Cost-Effective Section 526 Opportunities (Section 526 of The Energy
Independence and Security Act of prevents federal agencies from contracting to
purchase liquid coal and other “dirty fuels,” such as tar sands and oil shale, that produce more
global warming pollution than conventional gasoline. NDIA supports DoD’s
efforts that will lead to cost-effective biofuel alternatives to traditional
fuels in the coming decade without overlooking other paths to achieve
performance engineered fuels to meet military requirements.
efficiency must be given prevalent consideration throughout the entire
acquisition process from the analysis of
alternatives to production and life cycle sustainment, and be part of
the DoD lexicon considered by everyone—developers through the soldier-- that
ultimately uses the system.
For oil supply security the DOD services have aggressively
promoted biofuels. But as the June 2012 issue of the Air Force Magazine questions
it neatly what
if the US need for oil simply fades away. In the last six years, overall US
imports fell by 33 percent. Foreign oil, 60 percent of US usage in 2005, is now
45 percent. New forecasts project imports will decline or flatten out for
another two decades.
In their article entitled “The Folly of Energy Independence”, Gal Luft and Anne Korin rightly state that the problem
is not about supply but about price. They
say that a
country can reduce oil imports but end up paying a much higher oil import bill.
This is the reason why US foreign oil expenditures almost equaled the defense
The inability to keep the price of oil at bay, not the volume of imports, is
the crux of America’s vulnerability. In another version of that article Gal Luft repeats what every person in
oil business knows “The reason is that oil is a fungible commodity whose price
is being determined in the world market on a minute-by-minute basis. A price of
a barrel of oil is more or less equal to every consumer, and when the price
spikes, it does so for everyone regardless of where their supply comes from.”
This is why the move towards greater self-sufficiency does not necessarily lead
to cheaper oil prices.
As Admiral (ret) Gary Roughead and the other authors
of the Hoover Institution’s Powering the Armed
Sources report lay out the DoD’s focus should be on strategic needs, not
arbitrary numerical targets. When it comes to developing and commercializing
energy products, the military should be concerned only with immediate and
As for electricity supply security the progress has good,
bad and ugly sides as well. Reliance on sun and wind in the name of electricity
supply security is one of the ugly sides.
Therefore my recommendation to DOD is to have the following
Top Issues for 2013 into consideration:
deployment of small nuclear reactors for installation electricity security
to liquid and coal to liquid technologies rather than biofuels
operational energy and installation energy management under one umbrella
Moving to Jet-A1
and slowly reducing the single battle fuel concept
attention to energy culture and behavior change
use of energy and energy conservation (in other words eliminating the wasteful
use of energy) more than energy efficiency
functioning energy data and cost management
energy acquisitions by taking energy into account
efforts by adding Spartan conditions into the equation (for Navy and Marines)
10. Educating senior DOD officials on energy and
especially functioning of oil markets.
I wish you all a healthy and prosperous new year!