DoD in position to incubate clean energy, says Pew report

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The Defense Department is in a unique position to support development of clean and efficient energy technologies, says a Sept. 21 report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Defense spending on new energy technology--and the sheer size of its energy purchasing power--could have long-term effects on American embrace of clean energy as a whole, the report says, drawing parallels between the department's current spending on energy technology development and past investment into semiconductors.

Congressional mandates and an internal reassessment of energy needs, caused by energy price volatility and asymmetric tactics that attacked logistics convoys, have caused DoD funding of energy security initiatives to more than double to $1.2 billion, the report says.

The spending reflects a set of ambitious goals. The Air Force wants to use alternative aviation fuels for half of its domestic aviation needs by 2016, the Navy and Marine Corps plan to use alternative energy sources for half of their operational platforms' energy requirement by 2020, and the Army is working to increase its use of non-petroleum fuels by 10 percent annually in non-tactical vehicles.

Oil products account for 80 percent of DoD's energy consumption. The department spent $15.2 billion on energy during fiscal 2010, 74 percent of that for operational needs related to training, moving, and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms. Some Pentagon estimates place the cost of a battlefield gallon of gas at $40, when all material costs are totaled--and one in 46 logistics convoys results in a casualty.

But the department has an established research and development system with a history of accelerating technology development and has agreements with the Energy Department to work cooperatively on advanced batteries, energy efficiency, microgrids and smart technology and with the Agriculture Department to work on biofuels, the report notes.

The DoD also enjoys a high level of public trust, the report adds, meaning that technologies that meet rigorous requirements
and certifications demanded by DoD are well regarded in the commercial sector. 

For more:
- download the report, "From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America's Armed Forces" (.pdf)

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