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DoD Buying Power Could Fuel Clean Energy Initiatives

Feb. 29, 2012 - 05:43PM   |  
By DAVE MAJUMDAR   |   Comments
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Former President Bill Clinton said the United States could leverage the U.S. military’s research and development efforts to further the adoption of clean energy technologies.

“If the Navy wants to have half of its planes fly on bio-fuels by 2020, why not help them exceed it?” Clinton said Feb. 29 during a speech at the Energy Innovation Summit of the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy. “There are lots of things here we can do with the military. I think we should do more.”

The Defense Department has massive numbers of buildings, vehicles, ships and jets that can be used more efficiently using new clean energy technologies, the former president said. Such investment by the military would not only save the Pentagon money in fuel, but it would provide the economies of scale to allow for wider adoption of clean energy technologies.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the audience the Pentagon could be an early adopter of innovations and push the technological edge out further than other entities because it is willing to pay more for better capabilities. It could also buy new hardware in vast quantities, further driving technological refinements that would reduce costs, Carter said. Those lower prices might then lead to wider adoption of such new technologies.

“We regard that as an important function of defense expenditure in our country,” Carter said. “That has long been so.”

For example, while a civilian user might not be willing to pay the exorbitant prices to buy small, lightweight, high energy-density batteries, the Pentagon will do so because soldiers and Marines operating in combat conditions need lightweight power cells, Carter said. That demand for high-density power cells could lead to better, cheaper batteries, expanding their use.

There are certain technological areas, such as jet engines, where the Pentagon is a natural leader in adopting more energy-efficient technologies, Carter said. Many of those technologies could be spun off to civilian use, as was the case with the Internet, GPS or jet engines, he said.

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