Experts at the Oklahoma Aerospace Summit say the U.S. has the capability to become more energy conscious and more efficient

Published: Monday, June 21, 2010 7:00 am By: Heide Brandes

Worldwide, the craving for energy continues to increase, and the U.S. Department of Defense is one of its major consumers.

On the flip side, however, the DOD and the U.S. Air Force could be a major leader in how energy consumption can be controlled using renewable resources and more responsible practices, according to Gen. Bradley Young at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

At last month's Oklahoma Aerospace Summit, energy use and consumption was a major topic of discussion, as America is the world's leading consumer of oil, with 60% to 70% of it imported. But with partnerships and planning in place, experts at the summit say the U.S. and Oklahoma's aerospace industries could change how much and what kind of energy is consumed.

According to Pete Delaney, chairman and president of OGE Energy Corp., worldwide energy consumption will increase by 44% by 2030, with developing countries in Asia seeing a continued growth in consumption.

"By 2030, China and India will see an energy consumption growth of 100%. The United States is 21% of the worldwide energy consumption now, but that is expected to drop by 17% by 2030," Delaney says. "The magnitude of renewable energy needed to make a difference in this country is enormous, but there are several models of electric vehicles in production. We can reduce oil usage through hybrid vehicles, and we're building infrastructure now to capture wind energy with a goal of 750 megawatts by the end of the year."

Young says the DOD uses 91% of all of the federal government's consumption of oil, at a rate of 395,000 barrels per day.

"The United States Air Force is the largest consumer of oil in the Department of Defense, using 64% of the DOD's consumption," he says. "Of that, aviation makes up 84% of all of the Air Force's consumption."

In 2008, the DOD spent $9.1 billion on energy, with $7.7 billion on aviation fuel alone.

"It really takes a lot of energy to carry out the defense mission," Young says.

Last October, the Air Force was given federal mandates to reduce energy and fleet consumption of oil by 2% until 2020.

"We do that by getting rid of the gas-guzzler vehicles and purchasing alternative-fuel vehicles," Young says. "We are currently working on propulsion systems that will reduce consumption by 25%, and we are producing solar-powered unmanned aircraft."

Other energy-saving plans in place by the DOD include using closed-cell spray foam on all tents in the Middle East, which resulted in a 50% reduction in heating and air costs, he says.

"We've seen great things in increasing supply of alternatives," Young says. "In alternatives, we're working on renewable fuels, including a 50/50 blend of synthetic kerosene certified for use in all aircraft by 2011. We are working on a 50/50 blend of biofuel for aircraft."

Other plans include manufacturing oil from wood to create a synthetic fuel and changing Air Force culture.

"We're driving more economical vehicles, we're recycling, and the leaders are setting the examples," he says.

Electricity consumption also will increase by 2030, and Delaney says more coal plants are being built globally to keep up with demand.

"China added 80 gigawatts of plants this past year. China is building one coal plant a week for the next 10 years," he says. "Coal provides 80% of the electrical need in China, and we're predicting a 95% increase in coal use in India and China by 2030."

America's military bases continue to rely on private-sector electricity, and Young says that makes electric grids highly susceptible to widespread outages caused by error, weather and terrorist attacks.

"How would the DOD be affected if an air base was involved in a massive blackout? We have to make sure our bases reach out to local companies to become less vulnerable," he says.

Yet, experts at the summit agree the U.S. has the capability to become more energy-conscious.

"We have the talent and the leaders needed to make aircraft more efficient, and we need to seek opportunities for collaborations for energy between the Department of Defense and energy," Young says. "We can reduce, if not solve, our dependency on oil."

The 2008 United States Air Force Infrastructure Energy Strategic Plan Goals:
Reduce cost by 20% by 2020
Reduce energy intensity by 3% per annum
Reduce water use by 2% per annum
Increase renewables at annual targets (3%, 5%, 7.5%, 25%)
Reduce ground fuel use by 2% per annum
Increase alternative fuel use by 10% per annum

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