The road to energy security is circular. You start out reducing your demand, via energy efficiency gains and process changes, find smart ways to distribute the required power and then bring in the renewables/alternatives to meet the diminished demand. Reduce, distribute, renew, repeat. Seems like a straightforward process. Yet we are hearing that even the easiest part of reducing demand has been slow rolled in Afghanistan of late.
Anybody who has followed energy efforts in our two war zones is familiar with the concept of spray foaming (with spray polyurethane foam) tents. For the uninitiated, the process developed by Joe Amadee and John Spiller involves spraying a quick hardening, insulating foam on temporary structures that aren't going anywhere. The process is done by trained contract professionals in a short period of time and provides a structure that is thermally and acoustically insulated with reduced air infiltration (read less dust) and 50 to 70% less fuel intensity necessary to heat and cool. Both the Marine Corps and Air Force Energy assessment teams recommended this procedure to decrease fuel use for power generation in Afghanistan.
There is an existing contract to do the work, but it being delayed because someone, somewhere is being treed by a Chihuahua. Despite testing and certification by the Army Safety folks, the Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and a policy letter from the DASA, Environment, Safety and Occupational Health, concerns about mythical safety and disposal concerns abound. I have heard of a report where it is alleged that to dispose of the material will require shipping it back to the states for destruction. This is ludicrous and, frankly, borderline negligent. This material is landfilled in this country every single day. Of course, I am not sure if the Afghan EPA has higher standards than ours.
The reason this is of concern is not the dollar cost of the fuel; it is the cost in blood. It is difficult to assess the NATO casualties associated with fuel since no tactical convoy is carrying fuel alone. But it is easy if you ask the contractors responsible for delivering the fuel in Afghanistan. Here is a quote from an email I received:
By the way, I met with Supreme Fuel Afghanistan last week; they are the largest fuel contractor and have all of RC-South, Southwest and North. They have had 47 contracted fuel truck drivers (mostly TCN’s) KILLED this calendar year alone (361 KIA, 652 WIA since contract began)!! They have lost 97 fuel trucks in the last 6 weeks!! Dude, folks are still being killed moving fuel we wouldn’t need if energy efficiency was REALLY enough of a priority in DOD to cause leadership to establish POLICY to require it.
Well said. In Afghanistan, fuel is delivered to the major bases by contractors without the benefit of military escort. This is different from Iraq, where at one time U.S. forces provided force protection and were suffering one casualty for every twenty four convoys. The fact that third country nationals (TCNs) are the targets does not diminish the cost in blood, it just keeps it from being headline news here.
Besides being a great solution (thanks Joe and John) now Congress wants to know how DoD is implementing this elegantly simple idea. In September of this year, the House Armed Services Committee asked the SECDEF to provide an:
... update prior to delivery of the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget request detailing the Department’s plan to reduce operational energy through technology and culture change, the approximate savings that may be achieved, approximate funding required, timeline for deployment, and cross-service efforts to maximize investments.
In the letter, they specifically cite the use of SPF on tents as an example of how to reduce significantly the approximately $9.34 billion spent on operational energy.
Spray foaming tents was always intended as a stop gap measure until a better solution could be found. The Acquisition community is working it hard. That being said, there are logistics solutions available today that would simple require a modification to LOGCAP contracting. SIPSWorldWide and SynoStructures (presentation by Synovision to Pacific Northwest Defense Association) are examples of shovel ready structures to replace spray foamed tents. Once we figure out how to include energy savings incentives in LOGCAP it will become a self solving problem. In the meantime, let’s use the tools we have at hand and not be treed by Chihuahuas; there are plenty of pit bulls out there.