USA — Official Explains Approach to Climate Change, Energy

WASHINGTON — Devel­op­ing a delib­er­ate approach to ener­gy and cli­mate change is an impor­tant plat­form to nation­al secu­ri­ty and the U.S. mil­i­tary mis­sion, a senior Defense Depart­ment offi­cial told mem­bers of Con­gress here yes­ter­day.

Dorothy Robyn, deputy under­sec­re­tary of defense for instal­la­tions and envi­ron­ment, tes­ti­fied before the Sen­ate Ener­gy and Nat­ur­al Resources Com­mit­tee about the Pentagon’s take on the Cal­i­for­nia Desert Pro­tec­tion Act of 2010.

The pro­pos­al, intro­duced to Con­gress in Decem­ber, requests that hun­dreds of thou­sands of acres of fed­er­al­ly grant­ed land belong­ing to mil­i­tary instal­la­tions and school sys­tems in the South­west be des­ig­nat­ed as nation­al park wilder­ness areas.

The plan also would per­mit con­struc­tion of trans­mis­sion lines to facil­i­tate renew­able ener­gy trans­fer in these wilder­ness areas and pro­vide solar ener­gy com­pa­nies with poten­tial projects.

“The Depart­ment of Defense sup­ports these goals and we want to work close­ly with the com­mit­tee to ensure that mil­i­tary renew­able ener­gy and envi­ron­men­tal equi­ties are pro­tect­ed as you fur­ther devel­op this leg­is­la­tion,” Robyn said in her writ­ten state­ment. “As the Qua­dren­ni­al Defense Review made clear, craft­ing a strate­gic approach to ener­gy and cli­mate change is a high pri­or­i­ty for the depart­ment.”

Pen­ta­gon research has deter­mined that the military’s heavy reliance on oil and fos­sil fuels comes with risks to its tac­ti­cal and strate­gic agen­da, Robyn said. Con­tin­ued use of these resources with­out even­tu­al­ly find­ing alter­nate ener­gy will result in “lost dol­lars, in reduced mis­sion effec­tive­ness and in U.S. sol­diers’ lives,” she explained.

“Unleash­ing warfight­ers from the teth­er of [fos­sil] fuel and reduc­ing our mil­i­tary instal­la­tions’ depen­dence on a cost­ly and poten­tial­ly frag­ile pow­er grid will not [only] sim­ply enhance the envi­ron­ment, it will sig­nif­i­cant­ly improve our mis­sion effec­tive­ness,” she added.

Robyn acknowl­edged that the department’s instal­la­tions – some 300,000 build­ings and 2.2 bil­lion square feet of floor space – account for near­ly 30 per­cent of the department’s ener­gy use. The Pen­ta­gon spent $4 bil­lion on ener­gy for per­ma­nent instal­la­tions in 2009, she said, not­ing the department’s pledge to reduce green­house emis­sions by 34 per­cent dur­ing the next decade.

“The expan­sion of renew­able ener­gy devel­op­ment on our instal­la­tions will be key to meet­ing that goal,” she said. “Com­bined with appro­pri­ate tech­nolo­gies and nec­es­sary ener­gy assur­ance poli­cies, the devel­op­ment of renew­able ener­gy can help mil­i­tary instal­la­tions pro­vide greater mis­sion assur­ance.”

Robyn not­ed exam­ples of the military’s pur­suit of renew­able ener­gy, cit­ing progress at Nel­lis Air Force Base, Nev., where a 14-megawatt pho­to­volta­ic solar ener­gy sys­tem saves $1 mil­lion a year in elec­tric­i­ty costs and avoids 24,000 tons of car­bon diox­ide emis­sions.

Also, Naval Air Weapons Sta­tion Chi­na Lake, Calif., has been oper­at­ing a 270-megawatt geot­her­mal plant since 1987, Robyn said. She added that the Navy is work­ing with the Army to tap into geot­her­mal resources as well.

Some renew­able ener­gy, how­ev­er, can be prob­lem­at­ic for mil­i­tary instal­la­tions, she acknowl­edged. Robyn described how wind tur­bines and solar tow­ers can inter­fere with air­craft nav­i­ga­tion and oth­er radars. She also not­ed that the land on many mil­i­tary instal­la­tions is home to pro­tect­ed wildlife, and that solar projects increase com­pe­ti­tion for water sup­ply.

“We are work­ing active­ly both to iden­ti­fy poten­tial prob­lems well in advance of [select­ing sites] and to devel­op bet­ter mit­i­ga­tion tech­nol­o­gy,” she said. “How­ev­er, some con­flicts may be unavoid­able, and sus­tain­ing our abil­i­ty to con­duct our cur­rent and pro­ject­ed mis­sion require­ments must be our over­rid­ing con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Despite these issues, the mil­i­tary is com­mit­ted to help­ing the devel­op­ment of renew­able and alter­na­tive resources, she said. She acknowl­edged the impor­tance of the leg­is­la­tion to the mil­i­tary and the part­ner­ship between the mil­i­tary and law­mak­ers in draft­ing the bill.

“As a result of that col­lab­o­ra­tion, the bill incor­po­rates many pro­vi­sions that address and pro­tect our oper­a­tions,” Robyn said. “The mil­i­tary has sig­nif­i­cant inter­ests and equi­ties in fed­er­al pol­i­cy deal­ing with the devel­op­ment of renew­able and alter­na­tive ener­gy sources.”

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