EDITORIAL: Keep fighting to cut military's energy costs

2011-12-18T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Keep fighting to cut military's energy costs nwitimes.com
December 18, 2011 12:00 am

The correlation between energy security and national security has been brought to Indiana's attention — repeatedly — by U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., and U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and Joe Donnelly, both D-Ind. It's a call to action for the federal government, as well as others in this nation, to look beyond oil for energy needs.

That's why it's important to maintain the requirement that the Defense Department conserve energy and use additional environmentally friendly fuels.

The movement in Congress to repeal this provision must be quashed. Even the Defense Department — the world's largest consumer of fuel — wants to keep this requirement in place.

Conserving energy could be as simple as closing the hangar doors sooner and insulating government buildings better. Both have resulted from this requirement, referred to as section 526. One of the best selling points, though, is the potential for spin-offs for the private sector.

We already know that military needs have inspired technology now in popular use in the private sector — everything from M&Ms to GPS devices to the Internet. With energy security so vital to national security, and with the hope of energy technology innovation driven by defense needs, now is not the time to repeal this requirement.

Developing new technologies to reduce the Defense Department's carbon footprint isn't as far-fetched as it might sound. In Michigan City, two companies have developed Solarover designs to develop solar-powered portable generators that could be used by rescue workers in disaster areas. These generators could also be used by the military in areas where troops are often on the move, or to help the military assist civilians where the power grid has been disrupted by terrorists or others.

Chuck Deppert, Indiana representative for the Pew Environment Group, gives the U.S. Navy high marks for becoming more fuel-efficient. Mandating more use of aircraft training simulators cuts fuel consumption. Jet fuel accounts for 81 percent of the Defense Department's energy costs for transportation. The Navy also installed stern flaps that reduce drag, cutting annual fuel costs up to $450,000 per ship, a recent Pew report said.

The U.S. military, by far the largest in the world, pays a high cost in both lives and money to protect oil coming from places like the Middle East. That's why veterans have added their support to the provision that is helping to wean the U.S. military off that oil produced in the world's trouble spots.

Requiring the Defense Department to reduce its carbon footprint has too many benefits to see Congress repeal this sensible provision.

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