Veterans Tell Department of Defense to Reduce Fossil Fuel Dependence and Develop Renewables
The Pew Project on National Security, Energy, and Climate today released a letter signed by more than 350 veterans, including retired generals and admirals, as well as former Armed Services Committee chairmen Sen. John Warner and Rep. Ike Skelton, urging the president and Congress to support the Pentagon’s initiatives to diversify its energy sources, limit demand and lower costs.
The letter stresses the importance of the military’s ability to deploy clean energy technology to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and strengthen our national security, energy independence and economic security.
As the world’s largest consumer of liquid fuels, the military is both becoming more energy efficient and working to test and certify advanced biofuels in its ships, planes and vehicles. By investing in alternative fuels today, the Department of Defense (DoD) is positioning itself to take advantage of these new products when they become cost-competitive with conventional fuels. This second generation of “drop-in” biofuels is produced from domestic non-food-stock plant and biomass sources, requires no changes to current engine design, and provides the same or better performance than conventional fuels.
“Today, it takes 22 gallons of fuel per soldier per day to support combat operations, a 175 percent increase over the Vietnam War era,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Project on National Security, Energy, and Climate. “The national security community agrees that both the DoD and the nation as a whole must reduce their dependence on foreign oil. However, some in Congress are working to cripple the department’s ability to move forward on energy innovation with its advanced biofuels program. This would hurt DoD’s capacity to shield its budget from oil price shocks and ensure operational effectiveness.”
For every $10 increase in a barrel of oil, the department pays an additional $1.4 billion annually—money that comes at the cost of operations and readiness. Some congressional amendments, if adopted, would bar DoD from purchasing or using alternative fuels and could also affect the fuels used to power unmanned vehicles for military operations.
“The bottom line is that the four branches of our military need our nation’s full support to continue seeking energy solutions through innovation, as their predecessors have done for generations,” added Sen. Warner, a former Navy secretary as well as former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Our nation’s energy security is linked to increasing the diversity of domestic sources of energy, both conventional and alternative, to lessen our reliance on foreign sources.”
"The development of renewable energy sources is a national security, economic and environmental imperative," Gen. Anthony Jackson, USMC (Ret.), said. "The next generation of Americans is deserving of our commitment to become less dependent on foreign fossil fuels."
Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, USMC (Ret.), added, "The U.S. military faces strategic, operational and tactical vulnerabilities due to its reliance on foreign oil. Spikes in fuel costs lead to cuts in operations—reducing flying time, sailing time and training time, thereby reducing the military’s overall effectiveness. We should use emerging technologies to limit these vulnerabilities."
In its report More Fight, Less Fuel, the Defense Science Board noted: “DoD’s energy problems are not unlike those of the nation. Just like the nation, to reduce its energy risks, DoD must significantly improve its energy productivity and use renewable sources where possible … As these technologies find their way into commercial products, they will also limit our national dependence on foreign oil.”
Innovation has been a consistent priority and role for the U.S. military. The military’s leadership, cooperation with the private sector and early adoption have been critical to the commercialization of many technologies such as semiconductors, nuclear energy, the Internet and the Global Positioning System. Maintaining energy innovation, inside and outside the DoD, is critical to our national security.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.