Energy Security for the United States
There is a direct correlation between energy and National Security. As large and important as the U.S. military is around the world, we have a responsibility to be more efficient with our energy use. Smart decisions are required for monetary and energy sake, but most importantly, smart decisions are necessary so that our military men and women can do their jobs efficiently.
Clean Energy Economy
Energy security for the nation is attainable with a robust energy strategy and investments in the future with a clean energy economy. Clean energy is our path for the future. We are also interested in energy security for reasons of our own. National security and energy security are co-dependent—they directly relate to one another.
The human dimension in this connection between national security and energy is obvious. Soldiers go on the road in conveys to protect fuel supplies, which is a task that is critical. But because of the inefficiencies, there are many solders that are on the road protecting our supply lines who are guarding conveys and in some cases, injured while on the duty.
Global Energy Supply and Demand
Overall global supply and demand dynamics for petroleum is driving the geo-statistic element. It affects our planning and missions. Supply is highly concentrated in some regions and demand is growing. There is a large supply in China and India, for example, which is a good thing because it is helping millions of people come out of poverty.
Change in the Energy Sector is Slow
Technology change in the energy sector is slow. Technology has flipped within the last decade. Instead of personal CDs and tapes, we are moving mobile with personal audio/video. The stimulus for clean energy is there, but energy is a difficult and volatile market. The scale of petroleum, for example, is such that 98 million barrels of oil are used per day around the world. The global energy security balance is changing. It is volatile and continues to be so. It shapes nations and policies.
The U.S. Department of Defense is a big user of energy because of the mission and the nature of their mission. Globally deployed forces have a wide range of missions, homeland defense, humanitarian assistance, preempting cyber threats and acquiring knowledge; building relationships with rising powers. A very broad range of missions and needs require a very unusual military that needs to be agile and flexible and requires a vast amount of energy.
Energy Use and Cost of the Department of Defense
The D.O.D. uses energy for operations and facilities. Facilities are military bases – 2.3 billion square feet – and equates to over 4 billion dollars per year in energy use. The Air Force uses 52.6% and the Navy uses 26.3% of operational energy. Soldiers on the field in Afghanistan, for example, do not use a lot of energy but it is difficult to get the energy to them. Operational energy use is not an area that was traditionally managed, but rather it was an assumption. Further, the lessons of the wars that we are involved in have brought home to us that we do need to manage this. 63% of the energy used outside the continental United States is vast and growing. Indeed, 1.7 million billions of petroleum per day is used in Afghanistan. 2/3 of the nations oil is used in the D.O.D., in missions and training.
Where does all the fuel go?
Cargo planes, tankers, and destroyers are big users of energy.
Challenges of the D.O.D.
The D.O.D. needs to move a lot of fuel and doing so in a war is very challenging. The department is often moving fuel through complicated distribution networks and in some places, there are not even roads. Difficult supply lines are very long and infrastructure is difficult, so a lot of the fuel is moved by air, which is expensive. Our military is very extensive and the energy used is vast. Donkeys carrying a generator to combat posts are not unusual. It is difficult to move energy in remote areas.
We have seen attacks on our supply lines. Suicide vests and other attacks are a real threat with the goal of devising more military capability while using less fuel is always present. Supply lines are long and difficult to sustain. Weapons that are laser guided and precise are more prevalent and, because we have a big supply line, it is more problematic. Ships are re-fueled at sea, and our equipment is used for decades, therefore, the need for fuel will only increase. It is in our interest to learn how to use our fuel better and more efficiently.
Global energy markets in 40 years will be different. Supply lines, fuel, and logistics are always a target in a time of war.
Contingency Basis – One of the Challenges
Contingency bases – shelters where people live and work are, at times, made of plywood, all of which require electric power for habitation, command, and logistics. That electricity is powered by generators. By placing combat outposts in remote locations, we have a strategic advantage, but it is a difficult thing to do – power command outposts in far away locations. Increasingly, the high cost of ground conveys are driving our fuel use, and it is expensive.
D.O.D.’s Operational Energy Strategy
- More fight – less fuel. Reduce demand for energy in military operations.
- More options – less risk. Expand and secure the supply of energy to military operations, such as solar use.
- More capability – less cost. Build energy security into the future of force. Everything we are building uses more, not less energy. And we need to change this in order to defend the country in the future.
Demand for Energy in the D.O.D.
- Solar panels
- More education
- Centralized power generations
- More efficient shelters
- Hybrid electric drives for ships
- Efficiency improvements
- Improved routing of planes
- Changes in engines, the advent engine is a highly efficient engine that is being looked at to help the air force move forward through changes in the body shapes of planes
Green Energy and Defense
- Solar battery chargers are more often used in the D.O.D. Batteries, wearable solar technologies for mobile power generation, and lightweight efficient and universal batteries are being used more often than not. Energy storage is very important for the D.O.D. The goal of energy efficiency is not just about making things better, but doing things differently.
- Unmanned vehicles powered by solar are, for example, technologies for the future. Legacy equipment was built to use petroleum fuels and because of the volatility of those supply lines, the D.O.D. is looking into using more advanced fuels.
How we buy and where we buy it is complicating and energy is considered throughout. Billions of dollars for decisions are at stake and we have to get it right. We need to have the capability to defend our country in the future so the impact of these decisions are crucial.
Operational Energy = Operational Capability
The D.O.D. is committed to reducing the burden of fuel from its operational and tactical commands to the greatest extent possible. Military leadership gets the importance of this and is being put into motion so that the United States can figure out a way to unleash itself from the tether of fuel dependence from other sources.
We owe it to our forces to need less. We need to use different energy so that we have an advantage. Clean energy is the future of our economy and the future of our defense.
For more information, visit the Department of Defense web site at Energy.defense.gov