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Military looks for ways to trim soaring energy costs

Steven Komarow, USA TODAY
Spurred by a 57% increase in fuel costs, the Pentagon is speeding up its efforts to save energy and develop new sources of power.

During the last budget year, the Pentagon’s fuel bill hit $7.4 billion, a jump of more than $2.7 billion from fiscal 2004. Fuel costs were pushed higher by developing nations’ increased consumption and problems with oil-producing countries – the same market forces that had American motorists paying a national average of $2.77 for a gallon of unleaded gasoline on Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2005, compared with $1.90 a year before. (Related story: Military looks at gas-guzzlers)

Those figures got the military’s attention even before President Bush called last month for America to end its addiction to foreign oil, says Michael Aimone, Air Force assistant deputy chief of staff. Adding to the pressure: fear of fuel shortages following Hurricane Katrina, which shut down many Gulf Coast refineries.

All military bases and facilities have been ordered to cut energy use by 2% per year and pursue alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind.
(12 March 2006)
Recommended by Big Gav and Grist.
Related articles from military journals:
America’s strategic imperative: a “Manhattan Project” for energy (Joint Forces Quarterly)
Toward a Long-Range Energy Security Policy – Parameters (US Army War College)

It’s a waste (nuclear in Australia)

Louise WIlliams, Sydney Morning Herald
Be warned: choosing nuclear energy is short-sighted and too risky.
… Germany is one of a handful of nations phasing out coal- and gas-fired power and nuclear power at the same time. Scheer says Germany is increasing its renewable power by 1.5 per cent a year and has already installed enough wind and solar power to replace seven fossil fuel-fired power stations.

Fifteen countries, including Japan, South Korea and Thailand, have recently adopted German-style incentives for renewable energy. That means buying power for the national electricity grid from solar panels and windmills owned by tens of thousands of individual home owners, farmers and businesses.

The incentive is in the price; a much higher price is paid for renewable energy fed into the grid because each small-scale power producer effectively owns a part of the nation’s power infrastructure, collectively offsetting the huge costs of building central power plants. The model challenges long-held norms that rely on large companies to deliver electricity.

Howard has referred to the high cost of producing renewable energy. But Scheer says the belief that renewable energy is more expensive than fossil fuels or nuclear power is based on a false comparison. He said the cost comparisons should factor in the billions of dollars governments have provided for nuclear research and development, the costs of future clean-ups and the reality that coal, gas and oil prices will inevitably increase sharply as fossils fuels diminish. He also dismissed the view that the world needs a “nuclear bridge” to give it time to find new, high-tech solutions, such as Australia’s proposal to bury carbon emissions.

“We have the technology that is immediately available; it takes only a week to install a windmill and a couple of hours to install solar panels. It takes years to build conventional power stations,” he says.
(11 March 2006)
A German scientist’s view of the pro-nuclear campaign going on in Oz. Also mentions the peak uranium idea (50 years left) which I’m not so sure about… -BG

Drain America first (energy policy)

Joseph E. Stiglitz, TomPaine
One of the more surreal sessions at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos had oil industry experts explaining how the melting of the polar ice cap-which is occurring faster than anyone anticipated-represents not only a problem, but also an opportunity: vast amounts of oil may now be accessible.

Similarly, these experts concede that the fact that the United States has not signed the Law of the Sea, the international convention determining who has access to offshore oil and other maritime mineral rights, presents a risk of international conflict. But they also point to the upside: the oil industry, in its never-ending search for more reserves, need not beg Congress for the right to despoil Alaska.

President George W. Bush has an uncanny ability not to see the big message. For years, it has become increasingly clear that much is amiss with his energy policy. Scripted by the oil industry, even members of his own party referred to an earlier energy bill as one that “left no lobbyist behind.” While praising the virtues of the free market, Bush has been only too willing to give huge handouts to the energy industry, even as the country faces soaring deficits.

There is a market failure when it comes to energy, but government intervention should run in precisely the opposite direction from what the Bush administration has proposed. The fact that Americans do not pay the full price for the pollution-especially enormous contributions to greenhouse gases-that results from their profligate energy use means that energy is under-priced, in turn sustaining excessive consumption.

The government needs to encourage conservation, and intervening in the price system-namely, through taxes on energy-is an efficient way to do it. But, rather than encouraging conservation, Bush has pursued a policy of “drain America first,” leaving America more dependent on external oil in the future. Never mind that high demand drives up oil prices, creating a windfall for many in the Middle East who are not among America’s friends.

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, is Professor of Economics at Columbia University and was Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Clinton and Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at the World Bank.
(10 March 2006)

Asphalt shortage delays paving

Chuck McGinness, Palm Beach Post
A statewide shortage of liquid asphalt will delay the opening of another 10-lane section of Interstate 95 and is affecting other road projects in the area, transportation officials said Friday.

…A number of factors occurring at the same time created the shortage, said Jim Warren, executive director of the Tallahassee-based Asphalt Contractors Association of Florida.
Liquid asphalt is made from the residue at the bottom of the crude-oil barrel — the better quality oil is used to manufacture gasoline, diesel and heating fuel.

Oil refineries on the Gulf Coast are still recovering from the hurrricanes, while other refineries along the East Coast were closed for maintenance.

A warmer than usual winter allowed for more road construction, increasing the demand for asphalt. And there is strong competition for ships in today’s global market to transport the material to distributors.

“When these kinds of things happen, you just can’t FedEx another load,” Warren said.
The best crude oil for making liquid asphalt comes from Venezuela. But oil exports to the United States have been cut because of increasingly tense ties between the two countries.
The asphalt shortage is just the latest materials crisis to hit the road construction industry.

The hurricanes that ravaged Florida over the past two years and the statewide building boom have sent the cost of concrete and steel up more than 25 percent.
(4 March 2006)
Related article from New Zealand: High fuel prices sting Hawke’s Bay ratepayers (rising road-maintenance costs).

Adam Feeley on New Zealand oil reserves

Nine to Noon, Radio New Zealand via Global Public Media
Eva Radich talks to Adam Feeley of Crown Minerals about New Zealand’s oil reserves.
(6 March 2006)