Navy admiral on 'energy insecurity'

National security depends on EE & RE, not drilling

Phil Carson | Feb 28, 2012

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Politicians talk. The military acts. Politicians waffle over national security. The military must provide it. Politicians duck the truth. Men and women in uniform duck bullets ... or take them.

When it comes to energy, politicians soak up campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests, then explain that "change takes time" and "subsidies are bad." Meanwhile, the once energy-hogging military understands that the longer the United States relies on imported fossil fuels, the more perilous its strategic position becomes. It's not just oil from autocratic regimes but domestic fuels that must be transported long distances. More bluntly, at one time the Department of Defense looked to privatize all energy supplies to domestic bases. That is no longer the case. Instead, the DoD is taking the opposite tack: to make all its bases self-sufficient, independent of local utilities.

Politicians have the luxury of uttering idiotic phrases such as "drill, baby, drill," and promoting the despoliation of every last wild corner of the homeland for a few drops of oil to appease their corporate sponsors. The military's responsibilities won't allow it to indulge in rhetorical fantasies and wishful thinking.

Not that these instructive contrasts stand alone. Politicians and the military have colluded for generations to hype threats, keep the military budget bloated beyond reason, sell unneeded, dysfunctional technologies to the American public and maintain a mutually lucrative revolving door between the two sectors that perpetuates these practices.

Energy, however, is the bright spot that has driven our military to act for the greater good. This direction has emerged from a combination of strategic, financial and practical drivers.

A snapshot provided by the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE) spells out the challenge. Today's military consumes 16 times the energy that it did in World War II, 70 years ago. Fuel represents 50 percent of all supplies transported. The cost of protecting fuel convoys can be 15x the cost of the fuel. Twelve percent of casualties in Iraq and 35 percent of casualties in Afghanistan were caused by attacks on fuel convoys.

We know from coverage in Intelligent Utility that the U.S. military's several services have been pressing forward with strategies to save lives and money by pursuing alternatives to the fossil fuel-sucking lifestyles of the civilian population. We've discussed such initiatives in "Happiness Is a Military Microgrid," "Smart Grid and the Military: Meet the First Adopter," "Military Microgrids: A Journey" and "Texas Military Bases Could Offer Timely Relief to ERCOT ..." 

Forum comments on the latter story illustrate the thinking that separates the military from the civilian realms.

"Seems to me the Army would be better off abandoning the whole 'renewable energy' debacle and concentrate on using their resources and dwindling money to defend the country. Ditto for the entire Department of Defense," one reader commented.

It's to dispel the notion that the two missions are exclusive that retired Navy Admiral Dennis McGinn, president of ACORE, travels the country speaking to whoever will listen. In advanced combat positions, energy to run vital communications equipment can be generated on-site, precluding the need for vulnerable supply lines. At home, military bases that are self-sustaining are cheaper and more secure than those dependent on, say, natural gas pipelines or the local utility.

McGinn was in Fort Collins, Colo. earlier this week to bring his message to an audience at former Gov. Bill Ritter's Center for the New Energy Economy, hosted by Colorado State University. McGinn, according to a report in The Coloradoan, told his audience:

"A nation that uses more than 20 percent of the oil that is produced globally every single year, that sits on at best estimates 3 percent of the known reserves cannot drill its way out of the situation of energy insecurity that we're in."

For the doubters, our correspondent quoted above included, I can recommend a report, "From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America's Armed Forces," issued by the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate.

A few quotes from the report's executive summary should state the case and then it's up to those who want to understand the topic to read the report.

"Until recently, the U.S. military's innovation agenda has not placed a high premium on energy efficiency and new sources of energy and fuels. But the department's experience conducting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the rise of new global threats and challenges have caused DoD to rethink its strategic energy posture. Special emphasis has been placed on reducing battlefield fuel demand and securing reliable, renewable energy supplies for combat and installation operations.

"The emergence of the clean energy sector and increasingly competitive alternative energy sources presents DoD with opportunities for saving lives and money in the years ahead. Energy efficiency measures help reduce fuel demand and operational risk while enhancing combat effectiveness.

"Alternative fuels and renewable energy sources can be domestically produced (and locally sourced around the world) to enhance the security of energy supplies. Similarly, microgrids and 'smart' energy technologies help protect DoD installations from commercial power outages."

Phil Carson
Editor-in-chief
Intelligent Utility Daily
pcarson@energycentral.com
303-228-4757

 

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Comments

Military energy usage

For an accurate undertstanding of this issue, read Rebuttal of A National Strategic Narrative at www.tsaugust.org

It makes clear that the nmilitary is wasting money and diverting funds from their mission. 

Hoped for more...

I can heartily recommend that all our readers click on this link, which reveals some seriously pathetic blarney with the usual blend of pseudo-facts, pseudo-credentials and absurdist arguments.

Frankly, I had hoped for a more substantive counter-argument. So I was disappointed to see the sophmoric foolishness displayed on the cited link.

But if anyone does their own research, many resources will immediately come to light showing what an obvious and successful strategy is being followe by the Department of Defense.

The funny thing is, anyone's strategy can benefit from well-informed, well-supported counter-arguments. When those are missing, we all miss out.

Looks like there's a run on tinfoil, folks. Don't be left out.

Regards, Phil Carson

 

energy security

 

The primary source of GHG is fossil fuel burning electrical generating facilities. http://dingo.care2.com/pictures/causes/uploads/2012/01/GHG-emitters-2010.jpg 

7 Billion humans generate vast quantities of excrement. I believe this excrement is capable of providing all human electrical demands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiolysis 

Right now hydrogen is perceived as a negative by product, of Nuclear Energy, when it should be the product, as the Pentagon has considered. reference info Request for Information (RFI) on Deployable Reactor Technologies ... DARPA-SN-10-37@darpa.mil

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=d0792af88a6a4484b3aa9d0dfeaaf553&...

Large scale conversions sites are intended to replace fossil fuel powered electrical facilities the Primary Source of Carbon Emissions.

http://www.populist.com/99.12.krebs.blob.html

In what officials now say was a mistaken strategy to reduce the waste's volume, organic chemicals were added years ago which were being bombarded by radiation fields, resulting in unwanted hydrogen. The hydrogen was then emitted in huge releases that official studies call burps, causing "waste-bergs," chunks of waste floating on the surface, to roll over.

 

Dennis Baker

106-998 Creston Avenue

Penticton BC  V2A1P9

cell phone              250-462-3796       

Phone / Fax              778-476-2633         

 

energy security

 

The primary source of GHG is fossil fuel burning electrical generating facilities. http://dingo.care2.com/pictures/causes/uploads/2012/01/GHG-emitters-2010.jpg 

7 Billion humans generate vast quantities of excrement. I believe this excrement is capable of providing all human electrical demands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiolysis 

Right now hydrogen is perceived as a negative by product, of Nuclear Energy, when it should be the product, as the Pentagon has considered. reference info Request for Information (RFI) on Deployable Reactor Technologies ... DARPA-SN-10-37@darpa.mil

https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=d0792af88a6a4484b3aa9d0dfeaaf553&...

Large scale conversions sites are intended to replace fossil fuel powered electrical facilities the Primary Source of Carbon Emissions.

http://www.populist.com/99.12.krebs.blob.html

In what officials now say was a mistaken strategy to reduce the waste's volume, organic chemicals were added years ago which were being bombarded by radiation fields, resulting in unwanted hydrogen. The hydrogen was then emitted in huge releases that official studies call burps, causing "waste-bergs," chunks of waste floating on the surface, to roll over.

 

Dennis Baker

106-998 Creston Avenue

Penticton BC  V2A1P9

cell phone              250-462-3796       

Phone / Fax              778-476-2633         

 

Mission Critical or ???

Ditto to the concerns posted by Jack Ellis.  But, in considering the Admiral's comments, there is no question that mission critical applications of emerging S&T by DoD or NASA have always justified the additional expense associated with such deployment.  No argument there.  And, these early stage deployments of nascent technologies have traditionally led the way for future cost reductions that eventually enable commercial deployment.  No argument there either.  But, therein lies the disconnect.  There are many who would seek to deploy the same not-ready-for-prime-time technology in the commercial/residential marketplace before allowing the additional research necessary to ensure that they are economically competitive. That is when consumers and taxpayers are left holding the bag unnecessarily.  A prime example is the recent $40+ million boondoggle at the Denver Federal Center as reported by Denver's CBS affiliate: http://cbsloc.al/A7TBk4.  It is unduly equating the mission critical military application to a commercial application that demonstrates a lack of critical thinking.  

Yes, the technologies will improve.  Yes, over time they will become more cost competitive.  But, subsidizing inefficient deployments before the technologies are competitive is wasteful... far better to spend that money on the additional research to bring them up to speed and deploy them as the nature of the application and economics warrant.

Rich Mignogna,  Golden, Colorado

Yes to R&D to reach cost-effectiveness

Rich,

Few would argue with not making premature deployments and that's relevant to the ARRA-funded rush to metering, long before the utilities had a program for addressing end-use customers' role. In hindsight, I'm sure that distribution automation and basic infrastructure replacement would have served a more coherent purpose. The White House obviously wanted the citizenry engaged and involved in their own energy consumption and costs. Should have begun with EE programs and healthy energy consumption practices.

Now, instead, the public is partly awakened and the dark side of utility-regulator collusion becomes more obvious, at least here in Colorado. Routine handling of rate increases and cost recovery has gotten more attention than in the past, as will Boulder's attempt to municipalize and Xcel's willingness to use odious tactics to stop it.

The raising of awareness around energy generation, transmission and distribution and the end-user's role will produce volleys of misinformation on both sides; only over time will people realize that they have to look out for themselves and individuals, neighborhoods and communities, even cities, will seek more control over their energy future. In many instances, utilities and regulators stand in the way. Perhaps an "Arab Spring" will break out in America over the inertia of centralized energy.

Regards, Phil Carson  

Energy Insecurity

Politicians can get away with "drill baby, drill" because most members of the public have neither the time nor the inclination nor the critical thinking skills to peek underneath the sound bites.  Whether its oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear power or renewables, politicans and the public are ignorant of the details, and the details do matter.

It's not just the fossil fuel advocates who exaggerate the points they wish to make and downplay inconvenient facts.  Renewable energy proponents are just as guilty.  Mr. Gore's famous clarion call to eliminate fossil fuels in ten years was equally short-sighted and totally impractical.  The cost of that conversion in such a short time would have bankrupted us all.

Finally, we have the grid operator in California claiming it needs 4,500 MW of new, gas-fired generation over and above what's otherwise required to meet minimum planning reserve criteria.  Why?  Ostensible to deal with flexibility shortfalls that, according to preliminary study results, would occur about ten hours per year in the event California's demand growth rebounds more quickly than most folks expect.  That's a $7 billion capital program, and the average cost to deal with each kilowatthour of flexibility shortfall is $30!

Jack Ellis, Tahoe City, CA

Gore is irrelevant

Jack,

Thanks for the insights. I should have included a little Al Gore-bashing for balance, but frankly Gore has long since become irrelevant to our discussions. While he usefully raised the profile of global warming, as one reader pointed out, his message foundered on his sanctimonious delivery. I believe the argument needs to be sustaining our quality of life and leading the clean energy charge, which has the dual result of maintaining American prosperity (and the environment in which to live heatlhfully) and fostering American leadership in the most critical sector (energy) to our economic health and our global leadership. We'd get the side benefit of healthier air and water, diminished emissions of greenhouse gases and, not incidentally, greater economic and military security.

In Colorado today, the Denver Post announced that a Democrat-led effort to require new schools and public buildings to be energy efficient (initial capital cost slightly higher, O&M over time markedly lower) would be opposed by the Republicans in our state house. I don't care which party leads the way, but continuing to build energy inefficient buildings simply burdens the taxpayer with ongoing overhead that flies in the face of our basic knowledge. One can argue the merits of fossil vs. renewable resources, but EE?

The military still isn't cost-constrained in comparison to the private sector and aspects of the public sector, but it has scale and sees the relationship between self-sufficiency and security. That in part takes the politics out of the equation. If so-called political conservatives want to beat back public-private efforts at EE and RE and microgrids and a thoughtful phase out of the most noxious fossil fuels, then they run against the posture of the DoD, which they claim to support.

How about we develop a rational energy policy based on the common good and stop holding our nation's security and economic prosperity hostage in order to grab power and deliver favors to political patrons? The pay-to-play nature of national policy is far beyond scandalous. It's an open, festering sore that threatens the republic. Frankly, though the Solyndra debacle was painful and had some political taint to it, a half-billion dollars, frankly, is a pretty minor scandal compared to the biggies of the recent past.

So both sides are guilty, but one side has a long and dark history of shilling for the status quo and slavish devotion to the status quo is killing our future. On the other hand, the lack of reasoned and principled opposition in this country to the party in the White House is a disservice to all who want that White House to set a responsible course.

Now I'll just step off the soapbox and return you to your regularly scheduled musings.

Regards, Phil Carson