Science and Technology News

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Energy Innovation In California

By Tarak Shah, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy

Last week, President Obama released his 2012 budget proposal. In it, the President proposed doubling funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy innovation. While the budget was being sent up to Capitol Hill, I was in California, learning how energy innovations will help the Department of Defense more strategically use energy today and in the future.

For the nation, accelerating energy innovation means new technologies for energy efficiency and new supplies of energy. Both are critical if we are to transition to a clean energy future. For the Department of Defense, the challenge is even more direct. As the single largest consumer of fossil fuels in the Nation, the Department spent almost $13.5 billion last year to purchase energy. While secure access to this energy enables us to protect the Nation, our dependence on fossil fuels comes at a cost in mission effectiveness and dollars. And unfortunately, we’ve seen with attacks on fuel convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan, it can also cost U.S. military lives.

The good news is that a huge range of scientists and entrepreneurs have mobilized to transform the way we use energy. At Stanford University, Former Secretary of State George Shultz and Former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and a team of military fellows, representing every service, have clearly articulated the connection between our national security and our energy security and are finding effective ways government can respond.

At Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, teams are working on everything from securing the electric grid and designing energy efficient buildings to nanomaterials for the next generation of solar cells.

And in the private sector, the possibilities are exciting. From tomorrow’s energy efficient combat vehicles, equipped with hybrid-electric engines, to small businesses creating cutting edge technologies, and venture capitalists providing the expertise and resources, American companies aren’t waiting to innovate.

For the Department of Defense, our priority is to provide U.S. forces the tools they need to execute their missions, which increasingly means “lightening the load” when it comes to energy. I’m confident that we can partner with both the public and private sector to do that and make our war fighters more capable and effective.

DOD Photo: Jay Keasling, CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute, discusses feedstocks for advanced biofuels with Assistant Secretary of Defense Sharon Burke.

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