Department of Defense Embracing Clean Energy

Contact: Brandon MacGillis, 202.887.8830, bmacgillis@pewtrusts.org and Dave Bard, 202.778.4551, dbard@pewtrusts.org


Washington, DC - 04/20/2010 - The Department of Defense has initiated ambitious clean energy programs in service of economic, security and environmental goals according to “Reenergizing America’s Defense,” a report released today by the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate. The report describes efforts by the U.S. military – whose usage accounts for nearly 80 percent of the U.S. government’s energy consumption – to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and cut global warming pollution by enhancing energy efficiency and harnessing clean energy technologies.  

“National security experts have been clear in their warnings - America’s dependence on foreign sources of energy constitutes a threat – militarily, diplomatically and economically,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s climate and energy programs. “But, the department is doing more than sounding an alarm; it has enacted energy goals and is inventing, testing and deploying new technologies and alternative fuels to meet those goals. The military is, in many respects, leading the way and helping to reenergize America’s future.”

United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates has identified energy as one of the department’s top-25 transformational priorities and the armed forces – including the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps – have undertaken specific initiatives to save energy, mitigate climate change and reduce costs. The military is investigating and implementing energy-saving measures in all facets of its operations, both at home and abroad, including housing, vehicles, fuels, weapons, supplies and transmission grids.

Overall, the Department of Defense has set a goal of producing or procuring 25 percent of its electric energy needs from renewable sources by 2025. Some specific initiatives by the armed services featured in the report include:

  • The U.S. Navy is developing a “green” carrier strike group to run completely on alternative fuels by 2016.  (On April 22, the U.S. Navy will demonstrate the ‘Green Hornet’, an F/A-18 Super Hornet powered by a 50/50 biofuel blend at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland);
  • The U.S. Army is developing a 500-megawatt solar power generation plant in Fort Irwin, California that will help power the base and reduce the base’s vulnerability to power supply disruptions. Named a ‘Net-Zero Plus installation’, the Army hopes to free the base entirely from reliance on the public electric grid within the next decade; 
  • The U.S. Air Force has a goal of meeting 25 percent of base energy needs with renewable energy sources by 2025; and
  • The U.S. Marine Corps has launched the 10X10 campaign aimed at reducing energy intensity, water consumption and increasing the use of renewable electric energy.
“The stakes could not be higher,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. “Energy reform will make us better fighters. In the end, it is a matter of energy independence and it is a matter of national security. Our dependence on foreign sources of petroleum makes us vulnerable in too many ways. The stakes are clear and the stakes are high. Our response has to be equal to that challenge."

With an annual energy budget of approximately $20 billion, the Defense Department incurs more than $1.3 billion in additional energy costs for every $10 increase per barrel rise in the world market price of oil. In addition to vulnerability to price fluctuations, the department’s reliance on fossil fuels also compromises combat effectiveness by restricting mobility, flexibility and endurance on the battlefield. Transportation of fuel to the combat theater is a significant vulnerability as fuel convoys are targets in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Today’s military leaders clearly understand that forward-looking approaches to energy and climate can save American lives and money as well as reduce emissions,” said Cuttino. “This leadership and ingenuity of the military must be mirrored by Congress and the Administration. If we are going to seize the opportunity presented by the emerging clean energy economy, we need a strong policy framework that puts a price on carbon, invests in energy innovation and helps deploy low-cost, low-carbon energy sources to help strengthen our nation’s security, economy and environment.”

"It is the forward-deployed soldier, airman, sailor, or Marine who is truly aware of the critical implications of energy usage from the tactical all the way to the strategic level,” said Amanda J. Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Strategy). “This awareness stems from first-hand knowledge of both the logistical vulnerabilities associated with energy intensive options and the resource scarcities that stress vulnerable populations and governance capacity." 

Defense and intelligence experts have found that situations of instability can worsen from the impacts of climate change as water and food supplies decline, storm intensity increases, agricultural patterns are disrupted and migration increases due to conflict or resource shortages.  In February 2010, the department’s four year strategic planning document, the Quadrennial Defense Review, for the first time officially recognized climate change as a key issue playing a significant role in shaping the future security environment. It declared “Climate change… may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.” 
 
“Throughout history, the men and women of the Armed Forces have been among the first to respond to situations abroad to provide humanitarian relief, to help a nation maintain its sovereignty or to provide support in times of severe shortages of basic human necessities,” said former U.S. Senator John W. Warner. “The Department of Defense has been an engine of innovation, pioneering development of cutting edge technologies such as the internet and global positioning systems. Building on this record, the department will continue to help the United States develop and deploy the clean energy technologies our nation and our troops need to be safe, secure and prosperous in the future.”

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