Smaller Carbon Footprint Means Fewer Risks, Official Says

WASHINGTON — A hard push by the Defense Depart­ment and the mil­i­tary ser­vices to reduce depen­dence on fos­sil fuels will shrink risks on the bat­tle­field along with the Pentagon’s car­bon foot­print, a DOD offi­cial said yes­ter­day.

Oliv­er Fritz is deputy direc­tor for pol­i­cy in the Office of the Under Sec­re­tary of Defense for Acqui­si­tion, Tech­nol­o­gy and Logis­tics, and assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for oper­a­tional ener­gy plans and pro­grams.

He joined ener­gy experts from each ser­vice here in a pan­el dis­cus­sion dur­ing the 12th Nation­al Con­fer­ence on Sci­ence, Pol­i­cy and the Envi­ron­ment about how DOD can dri­ve clean ener­gy inno­va­tion.

“His­tor­i­cal­ly, ener­gy has been a deci­sive fac­tor in warfight­ing, … most recent­ly in Afghanistan and Iraq, where you see fuel not only being need­ed in increas­ing quan­ti­ties, but being moved over a bat­tle­field with­out front lines,” Fritz said. Many Amer­i­can lives have been lost on such con­voys, he added, mov­ing fuel or pro­tect­ing it.

Sub­sti­tut­ing solar ener­gy, bio­fu­el and oth­er tech­nolo­gies can pay off in warfight­ing capa­bil­i­ty, Fritz said.

“Those tech­nolo­gies are clean­er and do have a low­er car­bon foot­print,” he said, “and in a way, that car­bon foot­print is a metaphor for some of the logis­tics risks that we’re try­ing to reduce.”

The Defense Depart­ment released its first oper­a­tional ener­gy strat­e­gy in June to improve ener­gy effi­cien­cy and costs, and to sup­port strate­gic goals and low­er risks to warfight­ers.

Broad strate­gic changes that include the decline of front lines and the emer­gence of anti-access tech­nolo­gies like mis­siles and road­side bombs “designed to dis­rupt our abil­i­ty to freely maneu­ver, whether that’s around Afghanistan or around the globe, are forc­ing us to rethink how we are going to project and sus­tain pow­er if our logis­tics are under attack,” Fritz said.

The strat­e­gy urged more fight with less fuel, more options with less risk and more capa­bil­i­ty with less cost, he added, and clean tech­nolo­gies can help to make those things hap­pen.

“The strat­e­gy was issued last year, and we’re in the process of imple­ment­ing that. … But in addi­tion to hav­ing meet­ings at the Pen­ta­gon, we’re actu­al­ly try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence on the bat­tle­field,” Fritz said.

In Afghanistan, this means a new suite of more effi­cient gen­er­a­tors and cen­tral­ized pow­er.

“Our cur­rent approach to base camps often uses a lot of decen­tral­ized spot-pow­er gen­er­a­tion,” he said. “So we’re try­ing to improve the effi­cien­cy of those gen­er­a­tors, and at some bases where we can have larg­er pow­er plants with [elec­tric] grids, which are much more effi­cient.”

The Navy and Marine Corps are devel­op­ing exper­i­men­tal for­ward oper­at­ing bases called exFOBs, test­ing them in the Unit­ed States and deploy­ing them to Afghanistan. The bases use small-scale water purifi­ca­tion, ener­gy-effi­cient light­ing and pho­to­volta­ic, or solar-based, ener­gy har­vest­ing to reduce the need to trans­port fuel and water over long dis­tances.

“The Marines with their exFOB and a series of Army ini­tia­tives are deploy­ing a host of ener­gy-effi­cient tech­nolo­gies,” Fritz said. “Whether it’s shel­ters and tent shades or solar pow­er gen­er­a­tion, there’s a range of mate­r­i­al solu­tions that both ground com­po­nents are push­ing into the field.”

The Air Force, the department’s largest con­sumer of ener­gy, has been mod­i­fy­ing how it flies its air­craft, chang­ing air­craft alti­tudes and routes and opti­miz­ing air­craft load­ing.

“That alone is slat­ed to save over $500 mil­lion in fuel,” the deputy direc­tor said.

“That’s not a rev­o­lu­tion­ary change in reduc­ing our ener­gy, but it’s a sol­id first step. If you start doing those incre­men­tal­ly across the force, they add up,” Fritz added.

“We use about 2.5 bil­lion gal­lons of fuel every year. Our ener­gy bill is about $9 bil­lion, … and 84 per­cent of that is for avi­a­tion fuel,” said Kevin Geiss, deputy sec­re­tary of the Air Force for ener­gy in the Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary for Instal­la­tions, Envi­ron­ment and Logis­tics.

The Air Force is reduc­ing demand, increas­ing sup­ply and chang­ing the cul­ture across the ser­vice, he added, “to make ener­gy a con­sid­er­a­tion in every­thing we do.”

The Navy is exe­cut­ing a range of ini­tia­tives in ship coat­ings, propul­sion options, a hybrid-elec­tric dri­ve and a new amphibi­ous ship that is dra­mat­i­cal­ly more effi­cient.

This year off the Hawai­ian coast, an exer­cise will demon­strate a green strike group of Navy ships, and by 2016 the Navy plans to deploy a “Great Green Fleet” pow­ered entire­ly by alter­na­tive fuels, said Chris Tin­dal, direc­tor of oper­a­tional ener­gy in the Office of the Deputy Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of the Navy for Ener­gy.

For the Hawaii exer­cise, “we’ve got a car­ri­er and a sub­ma­rine on nuclear pow­er, but then we also will have the air wing on the car­ri­er using bio­fu­els, along with two destroy­ers and a cruis­er,” he said. “That’s going to be a big oppor­tu­ni­ty for us to show that it real­ly can hap­pen.”

In the Army, instal­la­tion ener­gy pro­grams include efforts to reduce ener­gy con­sump­tion on bases, find ways to low­er envi­ron­men­tal impact, and bring in inno­v­a­tive approach­es to reduc­ing ener­gy con­sump­tion, said Army Col. Paul Roege, chief of the Oper­a­tional Ener­gy Office assigned to the direc­tor of Army logis­tics.

On the oper­a­tional side, the Army focus­es on oper­at­ing capa­bil­i­ties, espe­cial­ly at the squad and small-unit lev­el — what the Army calls the tac­ti­cal edge.

“They’re on a fair­ly small ener­gy bud­get, but every BTU, every kilo­watt hour, every milowatt hour is some­thing they car­ry on their backs,” Roege said.

“If we get the peo­ple out there who are in the oper­a­tions to under­stand and think about what they’re try­ing to do, and their sys­tems and pro­ce­dures relate to that … , then we can have the whole Army com­ing up with bet­ter ways to do busi­ness,” he added.

“These are things that are hap­pen­ing today,” Fritz said.

“The strat­e­gy is as much about how we orga­nize, train and equip our force back here in the States and devel­op those capa­bil­i­ties,” he added, “but we’re also deploy­ing those today.”

“We in the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Army and our coun­ter­parts in the Office of the Sec­re­tary of Defense have a mis­sion and that mis­sion is nation­al defense,” Geiss said.

“I don’t believe the coun­try will accept fail­ure in that mis­sion for the sake of sav­ing a gal­lon of fuel,” he added, “but our job is to fig­ure out how we can accom­plish that mis­sion while we save a gal­lon of fuel or that kilo­watt hour of ener­gy. That’s the job [we’re all] focused on, day in and day out.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)