Friday, March 22, 2013

Some Good News on the DOD Energy Front: Less Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

In the midst of the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the future of DOD energy, one of the innovative ideas of the Navy seemed to run aground on the shoals of Senate trepidation.  Senator Toomey (R-Pa) submitted amendments to the continuing resolution that would cut funding to the Navy biofuel program.  Apparently, Toomey was not happy about Tobyhanna’s loss of 400+ civilian contractors in the coming weeks due to sequestration.

According to ASD,OEPP Sharon Burke’s Facebook page there is good news!  She is thanking the Senate for keeping DOD energy options open, vis-à-vis biofuels.  And yes, I get most of my news from Facebook and Jon Stewart. I know this will draw the ire of those old salty dogs who don’t want to see their Navy used to “experiment”, so we can await their comments.

I have been AWOL from this blog for some time, so Andy has been doing double duty with this and the Smart Grid Security Blog.  It has been hard to come by good news in this arena and you all know how I hate to be a Debbie Downer.  My reports from the front indicate that the sequester has not had immediate impact, but the impending cuts has everyone nervous and giggle.  I am hopeful that investments that save energy (and lives!) will continue to be made.  As everyone’s’ resolve stiffens, so do the walls of FOB shelters!

Those crazy kids at Natick have done it again with a ridged wall shelter that reduce energy requirements, are less costly and are easier to erect.  35% to 75% reduction in energy requirements means less fuel and less convoys.  I will not point out that there will still be years of development to go before this makes it to the front line.  By then we should have a lot fewer front lines. 

I am trying to gather data on the progress toward the gigawatt goal by each of the Services and the eventual Huntsville MATOC.  If you attend the microgrid conference next week, let me know what they have to say.  Look forward to your input.  Dan


Scott Pugh said...

I suppose I am a salty old navy dog and I am all for experiments but I see this as a question of misplaced priorities. Expensive biofuels for the military costing over $20/gal might make more sense if they somehow provided more performance or capability than JP8 or F76 at about $4/gal - but they don't.

Nuclear propulsion is more expensive for submarines and aircraft carriers but that extra cost pays for something extra - radical advantages in range, endurance and operational flexibility. When DoD pays more for expensive biofuels it gets nothing in terms of improvement in operational capability and it also incurs a harmful opportunity cost because extra DoD money spent on expensive biofuels is money that can't be spent on programs that would directly increase energy security at FOBs and CONUS bases, this includes wind, solar, energy storage or islandable microgrids to keep a base running during a commercial grid outage.

I strongly support the creation of a competitive civilian market for biofuels as a strategic national goal but the investment to develop that market should be made by DOE and the private sector. DoD should invest in programs that provide the biggest bang for the buck but biofuels are long on bucks and short on bang.

CAPT Scott Pugh, USN (ret)

Anonymous said...


Biofuels and alternative fuels are indeed about security; deep internal analysis has been conducted & vetted 6 times over.

It can't all be nuclear.

DOD is a fuel customer with unique needs for unique fuels. DOE is not a boutique fuel customer with operational needs. DOE could never accomplish for DOD it's focus on operational fuels.


Ted Vogel said...

I would like to add that there is a fundamental disconnection between DC based argument on cost of energy and actually payback in the field. There are a lot of different numbers out there but even ASD Burke put frontline fuel at $10-50 a gallon in March of 2011. (I used $ 17.44 form the 2009 Army reporting for my projections for CENTCOM.)

VERY simply, there are commercial off the shelf options that are self capitalizing that the military seems to ignore such as load sensing generation planning with battery banks, solar and wind options that have survived decades of use in places like Alaska with proven energy savings.

The end result? A report that showed a 181,000 liter per year reduction for a 250 man camp in western Afghanistan with a savings of over $800,000 per year in fuel with a one time buy in of $400,000 for equipment revision.

I looked at 5 power systems while there in 2011. They were operating at as little as 15% of rated capacity with a peak of 54% and the 54% was only when the load bank was engaged.

End result? It was not acted on.

Color me frustrated.

Scott Pugh said...

Just to amplify - DoD uses less than 2% of all US fuel and most DoD fuel goes to USAF which uses more than Army, Navy and Marines combined.

If anyone really thinks that USN biofuel purchases accounting for much less than 1% of the overall US market are going to catalyze a new industry I'd love to hear your theory.

AD said...


You don't need a theory so much as awareness that we collectively need this and that military demand drove past developments and deployments of items like microchips, GPS, internet, etc. I'm neither an American nor a fan of the military, but I'm sure damn glad they're acting while civil society and private capital dawdle, distracted by short-term amusements. The military evidently understands that sustainability isn't a lefty thing or a violation of economic "laws" (as some have put it). For all the US military's faults - e.g., the abuse of Okinawa (I live in Japan) - they've won my respect. And I know I'm not alone. So add a heap of soft power in the calculus of costs and benefits.

Desarrollo Sostenible said...

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