Captions [L-R]: 2003 Honda Insight (Hybrid), Solar Arrays, Wind Turbines, Mass Transit Bus

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Sustainable Energy and National Security

October 2003

On October 3, 2003, SEI held a roundtable on Sustainable Energy and National Security. Mr. Thomas Morehouse of the Institute for Defense Analyses focused on the national security implications of U.S. dependence on foreign oil, emphasizing that a large military, which is the largest consumer of oil in the U.S., is needed to protect these outside supplies. He concluded that there are solutions to reducing fossil fuel consumption in the U.S., such as tapping the bio resources available, which are adequate to meet the current energy demand, but which are untapped due to lack of technology, infrastructure and incentives for innovation. Referring specifically to the military sector, Mr. Morehouse noted that what institutional and cultural barriers inhibit the reduction of oil consumption in this sector, rather than a lack of technology.

VADM Dennis McGinn, former Deputy Chief of Naval Operations and Senior Fellow for Energy Security at the Rocky Mountain Institute, agreed with Mr. Morehouse on this issue of institutional and cultural barriers within the military, and suggested that overcoming these barriers can create great opportunities for fuel savings with technological solutions and for the leverage of such applications into broader national use. One of the very interesting examples of technology development and transfer he referred to was the idea of deploying hydrogen fuel cells in the military, where the infrastructure and expertise are available, and then applying the technology to the most acutely polluted cities in the U.S. such as Atlanta and Los Angeles to create mini-hydrogen economies. VADM McGinn concluded that all military constituencies (engineers, logisticians, war fighters, policymakers, etc.) that lack coordination due to the existence of cultural barriers need to be educated equally and on a “step-by-step” basis about these opportunities for fuel savings that emerge from technological solutions that can be applied to all kinds of weapons platforms. Other topics discussed included the role of nuclear power in the energy supply debate in light of its defense applications and good safety record in that sector; distributed generation systems; and the environmental implications of decisions made during war-time.

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