Center for Strategic Communication

Source: DoD

Source: DoD

The Department of Defense (DoD) recently announced plans to spend $20 million to lease a fleet of 500 electric vehicles (EV’s).  This is part of a broader strategy to rely more on alternative sources of energy because of the limits oil dependence places on the American military’s capabilities, our foreign policy, and government coffers.

ASP has already talked about the extent of the national security risk of the military’s oil expenditures. The DoD is the largest consumer of energy in the country and the Air Force is the biggest user of energy out of all the branches. The DoD estimates that a 25 cent increase in the price of a gallon of fuel costs the military $1 billion in additional costs. And fuel costs increased 381% from 2005 to 2011, a period when the military’s consumption actually fell by 4%, reflecting skyrocketing fuel costs.

The Air Force hopes to reduce this dependence by investing in electric vehicles powered by electricity generated from a variety of clean sources. As a start, the Air Force “envisions Los Angeles Air Force Base becoming the first federal facility to replace everything from passenger sedans to shuttle buses with electric versions,”- a goal it set back in 2011. Los Angeles Air Force Base, located in El Segundo, California, is home to the Space and Missile Center (SMC). The center manages research, development, and acquisition of military space systems.

The base is already a leader in solar power among Air Force bases. It spent over $2 million on an Energy Reductions Project that included a photovoltaic canopy that captures energy from the sun and uses it for lighting, heating, and cooling buildings.

Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology allows cars to refuel using electricity from clean sources of energy, including solar power, advanced energy storage, and smart grid technology. V2G gives vehicles the flexibility to utilize their supplied stores of energy to supply power during peak hours of usage. When not in use, the EV’s can add to government revenues by supplying the public grid with electricity.

Military investment often sets trends and paves the way for the private sector to invest in new technologies by making them less costly.  In 2011 the DoD paired with the General Services Administration (GSA) to conduct a study of the lifecycle costs of the vehicles, the residual values of EV’s, and the costs of installing charging stations.  All of this means the private sector can benefit and bring these improved technologies to the marketplace, sparking more interest in EV’s and cheaper costs for consumers.

These investments in renewable energy will improve our national security outlook. The price volatility of oil gives foreign oil producers undue influence on our economy and forces our military to focus on protecting shipping lanes, diverting resources from other important areas. It also makes it hard to plan, causing budget shortfalls. Diversifying sources of energy will ameliorate the effects of oil price shocks by increasing the military’s flexibility, freeing up funds, and allowing us to focus on other critical issues of our foreign policy.