The Air Force is the single largest consumer of energy in the federal government. Last year alone the Air Force spent more than $9 billion on fuel and electricity. The energy bill constitutes more than 8 percent of the Air Force budget. But it could of been much higher.
Dr. Kevin Geiss is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy at the Air Force. He and his team were able to save the government more than ONE BILLION dollars by championing the safe use of alternative fuels and reduce energy consumption.
That is an amazing savings. Dr. Geiss was nominated for a Service to America Medal Awards for his hard work. The annual awards program is hosted by the Partnership for Public Service and is widely considered to be the Oscars of the federal government.
Dr. Geiss told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that it takes roughly 2.5 billion gallons of fuel each year to accomplish the Air Force's global mission.
"One of the things we are concerned about is having options for fuel availability as we operate around the world. It is not just having JP8 available (primary fuel), but in some countries the only option might be new alternative fuels. Our main focus is certifying that our aircraft can use that jet fuel so that it can be an option," said Dr. Geiss.
Switching to Alternative Fuels
"It's not so much switching from one fuel to another, it is saying that we can use that fuel as well as the one we are currently using. Some of our aircraft like the C-17 are actually certified to fly on 12 different types of fuel. Wherever that C-17 lands the fuel that is available at that airport or base can be used to refuel the aircraft so that it can take off and continue on its mission," said Dr. Geiss.
Drop In Fuels
"The bottom line is all these fuels must be drop in replacements. So the effort we are undergoing is certification. Once you take a fuel through the certification process, it is approved for unrestricted use. We are not changing the engines in any way, these are drop in replacements and the requirement is that the specifications must be met. They must perform in the same way as traditional fuels," said Dr. Geiss.
Get on Board
"A strong energy security posture enables our airmen to expand operational effectiveness and enhance national security. You can generally get people on board quickly if you can show you can save money while improving efficiencies and effectiveness. We were able to do that," said Dr. Geiss.
- On our facilities side we have made purposeful investments over the last few years to specifically reduce our energy consumption. Since 2003 we have reduced our energy intensity by 20% and our actual real consumption by 20%. That equates to a $300 million dollar cost avoidance in FY2012 alone.
- One the aviation side we've been striving to get our fuel consumption down. Compared to what we used in 2006 we cut our overall aviation fuel consumption by 12%. That's about 200 million gallons less of fuel. Or $1.2 billion dollars in savings.
Build the Infrastructure
"When it comes to alternative fuel vehicles one of the key issues is ensuring we have the infrastructure to support it. We track the development of infrastructure in the commercial sector and identify ways to incorporate alternative fuels into our fleet. We want to find ways to incorporate them without increasing the cost of our fleet program," said Dr. Geiss.
Implementation Down the Line
"We are able to achieve the reduction in our aviation fuel consumption by looking at how we operate our cargo aircraft. We looked at ways to change the behavior, change how we fly, plan missions, load aircrafts and organize the cargo through our military aircraft system. Those are things that don't take a lot of money but it does take people time to sit down and do the analysis before you can transition this to the total force," said Dr. Geiss.
Mission Is the End Goal
"At the end of the day our mission relates to national defense and that is what we are here to do," said Dr. Geiss.
Need for Collaboration
"There is a technical aspect to what we do, but at the end of the day when we are looking at policy for the Air Force it is a cross domain effort. In order to put in a renewable energy project at an installation, there is a technology piece but there is also a huge element that relates to real estate and finance. So just coming from a technical standpoint is not sufficient."
"With the fiscal environment that we have now it is a challenge to get the additional investment dollars we need to work towards the future to decrease energy costs. At the Air Force we are going through a campaign called Every Dollar Counts. In my work that is even more specific to Every Gallon Counts."
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