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Five Things Every Airman Should Know about Energy

top five energy tips for AirmenThe U.S. Air Force has been quick to adopt new clean energy technologies including solar power and fighter jet biofuel, and now it’s putting out a video that promises to push the national conversation about sustainable energy to a whole new level. The video, called “Air Force Energy Tips: Top five things Airmen should know” (yes we know they mean woman, too) is more than a quick talk about the benefits of new tech or turning off the lights when you leave a room. It exhorts the members of the Air Force to think about energy in terms of a cultural shift that recognizes an individual’s responsibility for energy consumption, and to carry that message back home to the civilian world.

1. “Energy is a part of everything we do”

Air Force writer Amaani Lyle provides an advance review of the video, which is narrated by Dr. Kevin T. Geiss, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy. The first  concept Geiss introduces is to think about energy in terms of its critical role in daily life. It’s not an easy concept to grasp when energy is cheap and endlessly available, but in the context of military logistics it is a vital one, as Geiss explains:

“Energy enables every mission across our global Air Force as we try to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. It powers our aircraft, it supports our installations, and no matter what your job is or where you are in the world, energy is enabling what you’re doing.”

2. “Airmen are critical to energy”

Geiss also makes the point that Airmen/women are in a unique position to help advance new energy technology and new strategies for conserving energy. In order to be effective in this new role, the Air Force needs to step it up by providing them with the training and tools they need to track their progress:

“It’s important that we as Airmen understand how we use energy and how we can improve the use of that energy, whether you’re in a maintenance facility or a test facility or somewhere else. We’re also trying to provide Airmen with the right tools to better understand how to apply these measures, so we’re working with the Air Education and Training Command to develop an energy module that’s available online to give Airmen tips and tools for everyday use.”

3. “Senior leaders care about energy”

Following up on the previous point, Geiss draws out the fact that individual responsibility for energy consumption is a concept that has the full support of leadership, both in the military hierarchy and the civilian sector.

Geiss emphasizes that “The President of the United States, in his recent State of the Union address, indicated the importance of looking at energy security and how it enables our country and the Department of Defense to do its job.” It’s an important point that makes all the difference between presenting a list of platitudes and demonstrating that this cultural shift plays a key role in national energy policy:

4. “A penny saved, a penny earned”

As Lyle notes, the video also emphasizes the concept of a finite energy budget for the military. In that context, individual actions have a direct cumulative effect on the Air Force’s future capabilities. Describing how the Air Force has revamped its logistics to reduce the cost per ton of cargo hauling by about 21 percent within the past few years, Geiss explains:

“When you add that up across all of the sorties we fly each day around the globe, this amounts to millions of dollars in savings. Every dollar that we can save on energy is a dollar that we can refocus on other priorities across the Air Force.”

5. “Energy through technology”

Geiss’s final point underscores how individual choices about energy need to be reinforced by institutional changes, namely in the transition to new energy efficient technologies and the adoption of alternative energy. Among the examples he cites are the plug-in EV fleet at Los Angeles Air Force Base and the use of wind turbines at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when you fold in the dozens of projects recently completed or under way at military bases across the Armed Services, but it’s enough to make the case that individual energy conservation efforts are only part of the solution. What is needed is an aggressive, innovative federal policy that supports new sustainable energy projects.

No word yet on when the video will be available to the public, but it sound like something that every member of Congress should put on their Netflix queue.

Image: Courtesy U.S. Air Force.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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