Monday, June 28, 2010

For DOD Energy Planners: MIT Scopes out a Newly Gas Abundant World

We've talked several times (see here and here) about the newly realized abundance of natural gas in the US and all over the world. Now, as it has done in the past with coal and oil, MIT has marshaled its enormous expertise on energy matters (with input from other industry and government experts) into a new report that includes predictions for the future of the natural gas industry, forecasts of its potential economic ramifications, and some clear guidance on how to make the most of this mainly good news story from an energy security point of view.

Among the findings and forecasts are: that natural gas will likely become the fuel of choice for peak power generation and overtake coal as our largest source of electricity in general. Acknowledging that economical grid-scale energy storage is still a ways off, it says that natural gas plants should be used to to fill in for intermittent renewable power sources like solar and wind.

The authors tend to focus on carbon and climate change policy as big drivers. The DOD Energy Blog acknowledges these factors but gives much more weighting to reliable access to energy sources for the country and for DOD. But from an supply security point of view, this comment from the press release highlights what's probably the most important recommendation:
Illustrating the role of natural gas as a bridge to a low carbon future, the study’s authors stressed that it would be a mistake to let natural gas crowd out research on other low- or no-carbon energy sources, but it would also be a mistake to let investments in such alternatives crowd out the expansion of natural gas resources in the near term ....
Here's the press release. The 104-page interim report is free and can be viewed in full here.

Photo credit: Patrick Denker on

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

DOD Operational Energy finally has its Director !

Some things move slowly for a reason. Some things just take time. For example, I've heard the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) described as "slow as a turtle statue." Well, it's ok by me if they take their time. But other things are better when they are faster. Think: runners, computers, jets, toaster waffles ... and filling crucial leadership vacuums.

That's how I've always felt about the slowly dawning awareness of the mission centrality of energy strategy among DOD senior leaders. So, over the past decade or so, while the two energy DSBs, the GAO, certain congressmen and other experts have been strongly recommending the establishment and staffing of a senior DOD operational energy slot, it's only now, mid 2010, that all the hoops and hurdles have been navigated and we can say mission accomplished. Or better yet, mission started.

In this, the first announcement I've seen (thanks again to Ollie), I'm disappointed to read about Sharon Burke as if all she cares and knows about is climate change. From following her work at CNAS and her statements during the SASC hearings, her knowledge of DOD energy challenges (and potential solutions) is extensive. I'm looking forward to some more-informed analysis of what she brings to this critical new post and listening to how she articulates her initial objectives and action items now that she's been powered up.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Best DOD Energy Decks from NDIA 2010

I didn't make it to NDIA's Energy and Environment conference in Denver this year, but clearly some good sessions were held. Not the least of which, from this blog's perspective, were the following three from the "Special Session on Operational Energy":
"Quantifying the FBCF and Energy Key Performance Parameter" - Mr. Richard Goffi, Booz Allen Hamilton
All three are well worth you while, but I particularly like the way Rich Goffi reminds us of extant policy guidance and ties it to the Department's slow-to-be-embraced energy metrics. You can't manage what you can't (or won't) measure. And you can't show progress if you're not using accepted metrics ... or not making progress.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Technology Focus: Storage Storage Storage

If this was the DOD IT Blog, the title might be referring to next gen holographic optical storage capable of storing 100 Terabytes of data in a device as big as a red blood cell. But it's not.

Of course the title refers to energy storage, considered by many to be the key enabling technology for grid-scale intermittent renewables like wind and solar. But storage also has important roles to play in smaller form factors, namely vehicles and man-portables.

To wit, here are three recent nuggets, culled from this week's traffic, for your consideration:
  1. Energy Storage Challenge - "Energy storage is a particular concern for defence departments around the world for their bases, vehicles, vessels and soldiers in the field. So while we might all be able to benefit from the hard work of innovators working in this space, we note that the defence sector has traditionally been an early adopter of breakthrough technologies due to its unique needs and ability to explore emerging innovations, even if they are not cost competitive yet." We are happy to announce that ONR and ONRG of the US Navy have agreed to sponsor the winning prize for the winner of this 1st challenge with a $250K grant award. We thank ONR and ONRG for their vision and commitment to spur innovation in the energy storage field." Web site is still under construction but for more info contact "Simon Schneider at:
  2. Lithium Ion batteries for DOD platforms - " Li-ion battery technology for non-hybrid vehicles for engine starting, lighting, ignition and silent-watch applications." Full article here
  3. Fuel cell for mobile gadget charging - In new tech, sometimes the military leads, sometimes it follows, but most often it adopts stuff from the commercial sector and adapts accordingly. Such may be the case with new products such as this.
You may also be interested in this recent post on the fully burdened cost of batteries (FBCF).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Army Renewables Rodeo Report

6/17/10 Update just in from author Dan Nolan: I think the hospitality of the El Paso community (Thanks, Dave and Bec!) had not worn off by the time of my post. I misspelled Col Joe Simonelli's name. Joe is an unforgettable guy and a ball of fire, so I feel bad about my carelessness. He and his staff did a magnificent job of pulling this event together and to get his name wrong is inexcusable. Enough mea culpa? Margaritas on me!"


Unflappable, indefatigable, and unsinkable as always, here's Sabot 6's Dan Nolan with another dispatch from the slowly (but steadily) evolving DOD Energy universe. As a observant reader noted, "sounds like 1.5 steps forward, 1 step back":
Just returned from the Fort Bliss Tank and Automotive Research and Development Command (TARDEC) two-day Renewable Energy Rodeo and Symposium in balmy El Paso Texas. The event, hosted by Major General (MG) Bromberg, the Commanding General of Fort Bliss, and Dr. Bochenek, Director, TARDEC, featured 50 industry and government displays and over 200  attendees. The idea for this event came out of last year's Association of the United States Army Symposium in Washington D.C.. MG Bromberg and Dr. Bochenek were panelists on an Energy breakout session, and their conversation became an unprecedented collaboration between the U.S. Army's Research and Development Command (RDECOM) and their Training and Doctrine Command.
All of the major defense industry players were there as well as some very interesting new comers. Dr. Bochenek and MG Bromberg even brought in the Department of Energy, the ubiquitous Richard Kidd, Director of the Federal Energy Management Program. Mr. Kidd has been tireless in promoting greater interaction between DOD and DOE and he deserves recognition for his efforts. There were many great panel discussions with subject matter experts from DoE labs, the Army Corps of Engineers, and even DoD in the form of Drex Kleber, the Tony Robbins of the "Green Hawks". As the last speaker of the last panel on the last day, Drex was between us and a beer, yet he keep everyone's attention with a great discussion on why we do not need Culture Change, we need Culture Exploitation to create behavior change. Check him out at the next energy conference, bar mitzvah or mall opening he does. 
As good as the conference was, it was notable for who was not there. I will admit I am a bit of a glass half empty guy on this subject. The discussion on Enhanced Expeditionary Energy Self-Sufficiently was given by Dr. John Barnett from the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and veteran of the Marine Energy Assessment Team's (MEAT) deployment to Afghanistan. Dr. John did a great job, but I would like to have from someone in Training and Doctrine Command describe how we are considering the deployed energy challenge in terms of doctrine, training, organizations, leader development, material, and soldiers.
Dr. Cynthia Lundgren from the Army Research Lab (ARL) did a decent job discussing Army Energy Initiatives, but I was hoping that someone from the acquisition community could also have been there to discuss current efforts like the HI-Power program. DOD really did try to answer, then-USMC MG Zilmer's 2006 request for hybrid power with $30 million to the Army, but there was no one there who was knowledgeable on the program. Finally, the Corps of Engineers was ably represented by Stacy Hirata, Chief of Installation Support, but I could find no one from Installation Management Command or Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management in the crowd other than some folks from Fort Irwin and Fort Bliss. Their absence was definitely noticed. 
Despite the holes in the attendee list, MG Bromberg and Dr. Bochenek are to be saluted for stepping up to the plate for the Army on energy. For an organization consumed with the daily prosecution of two wars, the health and well being of an over stressed force and the critical impact of the SecDef's recent decision to spend real money on those wars, they were able to pull it off. I also want to commend their staff for making it happen; this was no mean feat to execute in the short time they had. Well done COL Simonelli and staff.
Sadly, we were informed that MG Bromberg would be leaving his command for a new assignment. I hope it comes with another star and greater authority. We need him. The good news is that he will be succeeded by MG Dana Pittard, late of HQ, TRADOC and a former commander of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. MG Pittard has been in the energy security arena since his days at Irwin and I am sure he will take up the torch from MG Bromberg for Fort Bliss. Again, thanks to everyone who made this such a superb conference. See you in Dallas for GovEnergy.
Thanks Dan. Myself and many DOD Energy Blog readers will be joining you there.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Thinking about the End of Easy Oil (EOEO) and the DOD

There've been a lot of articles about EOEO in the last few years, and of course, a spike of interest in the topic since the BP DeepWater rig explosion and ensuing Gulf of Mexico oil deluge. Basically, the oft-repeated point is that while there's still a lot of oil left on the planet, much of what's left lies far below the floor of deep oceans, or in remote and often environmentally pristine latitudes. No matter how you slice it, the costs are higher in these places, and so are the risks.

But was there ever easy oil? I don't think it was ever quite as simple as depicted in the Beverly Hillbillies. But maybe the crude we got from our East Texas wells before they ran low was the easiest. If you really want to know about the phases of energy history (and you should), there's really only one book for it: Daniel Yergin's The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.

A case can be made that oil is often far from easy, even when it's relatively simple to extract. Here's what I mean:
  • Expeditionary oil is never easy. Consider the often enormous costs in dollars and soldiers
  • Our real warfighting orgs, the Unified Combatant Commands, don't have to plan for fuel problems or pay for fuel no matter how much they use ... that's easy for them. But maybe not good for helping focus DOD energy strategy
  • Theater commanders don't directly pay for fuel no matter how much they use ... that's easy for them and necessary for effective warfighting
  • DLA's DESC directly pays for fuel and ensures its delivery to where it is needed. That's not easy. And it masks our forces' dependency on the stuff
  • Is oil sourced from the Middle East, some percent of which is then used against us, easy? I'd have to say that's a big NO
Despite the recession-induced downward price pressure on oil since its 2008 peak, you don't need Daniel Yergin to tell you that oil prices will rise again as the recovery continues, Chinese and Indian demand rises steeply, and new controls are placed on offshore rigs. That's the money part. That's not going away. And neither are the hard facts about the heavy man and mission costs we pay via fuel convoys. Easy oil is over, and the pressure is relentlessly building on senior leadership to accelerate our moves away from dependency on this increasingly problematic resource.

Photo Credit: Sig Nygaard on

Friday, June 4, 2010

Improved Posture: Services Increasingly Speaking with One Voice on Energy Priorities

Trickle up has become trickle down as calls for more attention to energy issues from low-to-mid ranking voices in the operational wilderness are now Service "posture statements" issued by the most senior of senior leaders.

The FY 11 Service Secretary posture statements are issued after the budget is presented to Congress by the President. Each is a 25-30 page statement of “needs” or “hot button” priority items that the Service Secretaries want Congress to know about the DOD budget.

What follows are the energy excerpts from each service's posture statement. While the Air Force has had energy language for a couple of years, this appear to be the first time all the services had something to say on energy. You'll note some interesting parallels and alignment, among them.
Energy security is a key component of Army installations, weapons systems, and operations. The Army has developed a comprehensive energy security strategy, and is acting now to implement initiatives to make us less dependent on foreign sources of fuel and better stewards of our nation’s energy resources. In support of these goals, we fielded the largest hybrid vehicle fleet within the Department of Defense. Energy will continue to be a key consideration in all Army activities in order to reduce demand, increase efficiency, seek alternative sources, and create a culture of energy accountability, while sustaining or enhancing operational capabilities.
In order to meet our readiness challenges, the Department is working to develop greater energy independence and conservation ashore and afloat. Energy costs siphon resources away from vital areas. The potential for disruption and the possible vulnerability of energy supplies could threaten our ability to perform on the battlefield. The Department of the Navy has made good progress in increasing energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption, and capitalizing on renewable energy sources. We are the Department of Defense lead for solar, geothermal, and ocean energy, and today, 17% of our total energy requirements are provided through alternative or renewable sources. The Navy and Marine Corps can, and should, do more. As we continue to increase conservation and develop alternative energy options, the Department of the Navy can mitigate the impact of energy volatility, use energy as a strategic resource for operational advantage, and become a leader in environmental stewardship.
Air Force
As part of our institutional effort to consider energy management in all that we do, the Air Force requests $250 million for energy and water conservation projects in FY11. This investment will ensure we meet the President’s efficiency goals by 2015. In FY10, the Air Force finalized an energy plan that directs the development and use of reliable alternative energy resources, and reduces the life-cycle costs of acquisition programs. Additionally, the plan recognizes that aviation operations account for over 80 percent of the energy used by the Air Force each year, and directs Airmen and mission planners to continue managing aviation fuel as an increasingly scarce resource.
It's great to see the emerging awareness that smarter energy strategies can be a mission enhancing advantage:
  • Army - "... create a culture of energy accountability, while sustaining or enhancing operational capabilities."
  • Navy - "... use energy as a strategic resource for operational advantage."
Big thanks to Mike Aimone for making this post possible.