Energy Efficiency and National Security

Posted by: John Rogers, Political Fellow

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I recently spoke to a class at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv about energy efficiency and what steps the U.S. Military is taking to become more responsible stewards of our natural resources.

The 2010 U.S. National Security Strategy states: “Danger from climate change is real, urgent and severe.  The change wrought by a warming planet will lead to conflicts over refugees and resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural disasters; and the degradation of land across the globe.”  The Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes that, as the largest user of energy in the U.S. Government, they must take steps toward achieving higher levels of efficiency, improve infrastructure resilience and foster a culture of conservation and awareness.

When it comes to achieving higher energy efficiency, the military faces a set of unique challenges given the highly dynamic and often austere operating environment that characterize a modern battlefield.  This is particularly true in military aviation where, due to the current limits of technology and extreme danger during the mission, there is often limited room to balance efficiency against flight safety concerns and mission effectiveness.  Despite these challenges, the U.S. military has taken major steps toward improving efficiency without impacting mission success.

Solar-Panel-in-AfghanistanDoD construction projects near Boston, Massachusetts include new building designs that achieve the highest levels of EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) energy efficiency certification called ENERGY STAR.   Not only are these designs 35% more efficient than traditional commercial buildings, but they release 35% less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  On U.S. Military bases across the Southwest United States, large solar array fields are becoming commonplace and, in some cases, meet over 40% of the bases’ energy needs.  Efficiency has also found its way to the battlefield, where solar panel technology adapted for tents and backpacks is a familiar sight.  These rugged and

lightweight panels eliminate the need for ground forces to carry generators and fuel miles away from traditional supply routes, and allow soldiers to move further, faster and more quietly than before.  One final area where the military is embracing energy efficiency is new technology acquisition.  From rechargeabl
Improving the resilience of energy generation, storage and transportation systems is another critical step toward achieving greater overall system efficiency.  Resilience focuses on protecting our existing facilities, minimizing the impact from disruption and, in the event of attack, shortening the recovery time while reducing impact to the mission.  Part of strengthening resilience is increasing access to alternate supplies of energy. e radio batteries to more fuel efficient and versatile aircraft, new systems that capitalize on energy efficiency are becoming “force multipliers”, or factors that dramatically increases (hence, multiply) the effectiveness of an item or group.

Green Algae used in biofuel
Green Algae used in biofuel

A major energy initiative of the 21st century is the adaptation of biofuels for DoD use.  Biofuels, which are derived from sources such as green algae and non-food cooking oil blends, are a sustainable, clean-burning alternative to fossil fuels. The U.S. Navy showcased their “green fleet” initiative during a 2012 large-scale military exercise in the Pacific called RIMPAC.  During the exercise, over 200 aircraft and numerous ships utilized biofuel.  In 2012, the U.S. Air Force finished certification to fly all manned and unmanned aircraft on biofuel blends.  While biofuels are a demonstrated alternative to fossil fuels, the U.S. continues to explore more cost-effective and sustainable options.

Recent DoD campaigns and targeted education seminars have focused on establishing a culture of energy awareness and conservation at U.S. military bases.  These energy efficiency campaigns range from local level events to DoD-wide initiatives that recognize the strategic impact of smart conservation.  At the local level, bases are better managing waste by following the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance of reduce, reuse and recycle.  This step is saving energy and money, while conserving our environment.

As U.S. President Barack Obama pointed out in his 2013 State of the Union Address, “Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.  After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future.  We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years.  We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it.  We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it.  And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”   DoD steps to improve energy efficiency, increase infrastructure resilience and foster a culture of conservation and awareness are having huge impacts across military installations worldwide.  As we look to the future, for the sake of our children and future generations, the world must come together and take steps to combat climate change.

As Ukraine continues to modernize, they must consider some of the energy efficiency steps taken by the DoD.  Not only are these initiatives conserving energy while saving money, they are working toward the global campaign of becoming more responsible stewards of our natural resources.

9 thoughts on “Energy Efficiency and National Security

  1. This whole climate change aka global warming aka global cooling mantra is nothing more than a money scheme. The earth is too large for man to do anything to affect the climate. The earth’s climate is controlled by the sun’s heat cycle and the earth’s fluctuating magnetic field. Yes, we should be good stewards of our resources but NOT substitute the best source of energy, fossil fuels, from our respective economies.

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