Clean Energy & the Department of Defense (in a Biden-Harris Administration)
- Sep 30, 2020 3:26 pm GMT
The Department of Defense (DOD) is the largest single user of energy in the world and, directly, represents about one percent of total U.S. energy demand. Indirectly, considering the full DOD impact (workforce(s), contractors, use of commercial transportation, ...), the DOD true energy demand could be well above five percent of total U.S. energy usage and thus ballpark one percent of global energy usage (as US is about 17% of total global demand). While well below aggregated demand from transportation, buildings, and agriculture, this is an impressive figure. To paraphrase Sutton's law, we need to focus on DOD because that's where the energy is.For far too long, for most in the Department, energy was simply a given -- something that the logistics personnel would get to the forces and something the financiers would pay for. While a cadre of analysts, including the Defense Science Board (DSB), sought to get DOD leadership (uniformed and civilian) to focus on "fully burdened cost of fuel" (FBCF) (what the true costs and implications of energy use are), this remained a back-burner issue until it became clear that a high share of casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq resulted from forward force fuel demands and the significant share of logistics (e.g., convoys) required to deliver fuel to forward operating forces and bases. This also occurred during significant oscillation of and high peaking of oil prices along with increasing (and, in near term, erroneous) concerns about nearing peak oil supply.
Thus, by the end of the Bush Administration, there were serious efforts underway to better understand energy implications within DOD and to reduce the Department's reliance on fossil fuels (from domestic installations to forward operating forces). Those efforts continued into and accelerated under President Obama.
From Marine Corps outposts using solar panels to reduce diesel demand (and thus refueling requirements) by about 50 percent to hybrid-electric ships cutting fuel demand by about 15 percent to installing LED lights thoughout installations to solar panels proliferating on military facilities, the DOD energy picture has seen real change over the past 20 years.
These measures, through life-cycle, almost certainly are saving the Department (and taxpayers) money as taking Energy Smart measures are typically (near universally) also fiscally smart measures. Far more importantly, these measures are improving capabilities while reducing risks. Let's take that hybrid-electric ship: greater fuel efficiency translates to longer range (e.g. more capability) and reduced requirements for refueling at sea (and thus less vulnerability). With those real benefits, who cares whether it saves a penny or reduces pollution? An energy efficient domestic base with renewable energy sources within the wire might save the taxpayer money while reducing pollution but, in terms of the DOD mission, is far more resilient in the face of (either natural or manmade) threats to grid electricity.
While much has happened over the past twenty years, there are still significant opportunities to improve DOD capabilities, boost resiliency, and reduce financial burdens through Energy Smart practices, policies, and procurement.
On 6 October, Clean Energy for Biden will host a virtual event focused on these opportunities. A panel that includes legislative, policy, and operational experience will explore Clean Energy & the Department of Defense in a Biden-Harris Administration. Speakers will include
- Representative Adam Smith (D-WA-9) House Armed Services Committee Chair
- The Honorable Dorothy Robyn, Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment
- The Honorable Sharon Burke, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy
- Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy (retired), former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations & Environment
This virtual discussion will focus on why clean energy matters for the Department of Defense (and the military services) and explore potential DOD clean-energy agendas and opportunities in a Biden-Harris Administration.
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