Air Force energy initiatives focus on fuel, beyond

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Amanda Ferrell
  • Global Air Chiefs Conference Public Affairs
Leaders of Air Force energy policy and programs convened here Sept. 25 to discuss the Air Force's direction and initiatives in the realm of renewable and alternative energy sources.

William C. Anderson, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics and senior energy executive, and his deputy, Kevin W. Billings, presented the latest Air Force energy initiatives during sessions at the Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition hosted by the Air Force Association.

"Energy conservation and developing energy technology is a major Department of Defense effort," Mr. Anderson said. "As the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, the Air Force is in a great position to look for, promote and utilize alternative energy sources."

We are working to incorporate new energy initiatives and programs at every installation, and we want to incorporate alternative energy and energy conservation everywhere it makes sense -- for the military and the civilian community, Mr. Billings said.

The Air Force is committed to working with agencies in the private sector, experts in academia and throughout the DOD to generate viable sources of energy that are both domestically sourced and more environmentally friendly than current petroleum-based sources, Mr. Anderson said.

While energy programs cover installation power, ground vehicles and other requirements, the current focus of energy technology in the Air Force is aviation fuel, which makes up 82 percent of all energy consumed in the Air Force, Mr. Billings said.

In August, the B-52 Stratofortress was certified to use a blend of the current petroleum-based fuel, JP-8, and a synthetic fuel derived from coal, natural gas and feed stocks.

"This synthetic fuel blend is currently the only viable alternative to jet fuel, and the United States holds one of the largest coal reserves in the world," Mr. Anderson said. "Alternative energy holds tremendous potential to produce environmental and ecological benefits, so our search for alternative energy sources in the Air Force must lead to domestic sourced fuels with greener footprints than current alternatives."

"Synthetic fuel performs comparably to JP-8 and is being tested to prove its compatibility with all current aircraft engine types," Mr. Anderson said. The Air Force has scheduled synthetic fuel testing for each aircraft in the inventory and has set a timeline for the transition.

"Our goal is to have every aircraft in the Air Force inventory certified to use synthetic fuel by early 2011," Mr. Anderson said.

Two factors regarding synthetic fuel that will determine its viability for Air Force consumption are that it be domestically-sourced and processed in an environmentally friendly way. It is also important the fuel be produced on a commercial scale and be efficient in both military and commercial aircraft, Mr. Billings said.

"Converting coal into liquid fuel through the Fischer-Tropsch process creates 1.8 times more carbon (than refining petroleum)," Mr. Billings said. The Air Force is participating is research of carbon capture and reuse methods, which will actually reduce the carbon output below that of JP-8, making coal-derived fuels cleaner than current jet fuel."

Accomplishing the Air Force mission is primary, but energy efficiency and reducing our carbon footprint while doing so is our goal, Mr. Billings said.

"We are now working with the private sector to generate ideas for increasing our energy supply," Mr. Billings said. Underutilized land on many military installations maybe a prime location for projects such as solar array technology, geothermal systems and other alternative energy projects.

While the Air Force explores a variety of options for creating green, domestically-sourced and more efficient fuel sources, one message remains clear.

"We must change the culture of Airmen in regard to how they think about energy," Mr. Billings said. "Our mission is to encourage Airmen to make energy a consideration in all they do."

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