We've reported extensively on the US military's commitment to renewable energy under Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, with 3.2 gigawatts (GW) in capacity planned across the Army, Navy and Air Force by 2025.
But what will happen to these plans under the incoming Secretary, Chuck Hagel?
The answer is hugely important because the Department of Defense (DoD) is positioned to be one of the single biggest drivers of efficiency and renewable energy in the US over the next 12 years.
DoD consumes 40% of the oil in the US and is by far the biggest consumer. It spends $20 billion on energy alone. Panetta made it a priority to cut costs and increase energy security by investing in clean technologies.
Under his direction, renewable energy used in the military will grow from 80 megawatts (MW) in 2013 to more than 3,200 MW by 2025 - increasing more than four-fold in 12 years. That represents an investment of almost $1.8 billion in 2025, according to Pike Research. There's also a commitment to cut energy intensity by 30%.
If the Army, Navy, and Air Force reach their targets of 1 GW of renewables each by 2025, DoD will get 25% of its electricity from clean sources. These initiatives have considerable momentum and Pike believes many of the targets will be achieved.
Republicans have tried to stop DoD's plan to reduce dependence on oil through the use of biofuels. The Air Force wants biofuels to supply 50% of domestic aviation fuels by 2016, and the Navy plans to cut dependence on fossil fuels in half over the next decade by switching to biofuels.
What's Hagel's Position?
During a 2005 interview with Grist, Hagel said:
"I don't think you can separate environmental policy from economic policy or energy policy. They are circles of connection and they overlap each other. You can't have economic growth without energy, and you can't talk about the use of oil, coal, and natural gas without talking about environmental policy, because those carbon-based energy sources emit carbon, and that's not good. The only way you can realistically deal with these issues is to come up with policy that integrates all three."
During his confirmation hearings, Hagel said: “Anything we can do to make any aspect of securing our country more cost effective, we need to look at. I would make that a high priority if I am confirmed and go to the Defense Department, to see how we do that, how we continue to do that, because . . . it is clearly in the interest of our country, our resources and our people,” he told the Senate panel during his confirmation hearings.
But his history as a former Republican senator from Nebraska tells a different story. He was a skeptic about the science of climate change and played a key role in keeping the US from signing onto the Kyoto Protocol, reports Politico.
While campaigning for his Senate seat in 1996, he called EPA and OSHA workers "a Gestapo." And during his first year in the Senate, he managed to pass the Byrd-Hagel resolution, in which the US wouldn't be able to ratify Kyoto unless developing countries also did so. That chasm remains today as the biggest barrier to an international climate treaty.
President Bush also renegged on his campaign promise to cut emissions from power plants as a result of pressure from Hagel, who also worked to prevent industry from having to report their emissions each year and led opposition to the 2005 McCain Lieberman cap-and-trade bill.
Yet, near the end of his Senate career, he supported legislation that would require the intelligence and military communities to incorporate global warming into their strategic plans.
Now, it's 15 years later, and while Hagel hasn't expressed support for a Kyoto replacement or cap-and-trade, supporters says he's grown more in line with Obama's energy agenda.
"I don't think Hagel is a green proponent as much as he's going to be an assured-fuel proponent," the head of Deloitte's DoD practice told Politico. "And if it's clean, all the better."
"And the ethos of energy conservation is now deeply embedded at DoD," Clinton's Defense Secretary William Cohen told Politico.
In written answers to questions asked before his Defense Sec't confirmation hearings, Hagel said:
"My broad priorities for defense energy investments will be those that increase military capabilities, provide more mission success and lower total cost. If confirmed, I will focus on both operational effectiveness and efficiency - improving the energy performance of aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and military bases; reducing the vulnerability of our fuel supply lines; lowering the load our expeditionary forces must carry; and diversifying the energy supplies we use."
Here's some background on the DoD's cleantech investments.
Read the full Politico story: