Brothers in Arms

By Tim Portz | October 25, 2013

The U.S. military is the largest single user of energy in the world. Its five branches consume every type of energy product available, and in staggering quantities. In a 2010 Global Green USA report, author Schuyler Null notes that if the U.S. military were a country, it would rank 54th in the world in total energy use, edging out developed countries like Portugal, Qatar, Israel and North Korea. Add to that the military’s strategic objective to grow its use of renewable energy to 25 percent by 2025, and the picture that emerges illustrates the U.S. military as being one of the hottest markets for renewable energy in the world, with needs for abundant electric, thermal and liquid fuel energy.

The Biomass Magazine team has been watching this sector develop the past two years and has published news stories in print and online the mandates, strategic initiatives and military exercises that have marked the growth of renewables in the armed forces. When we built the 2013 editorial calendar last fall, we knew it was time to dedicate an entire issue to biomass energy in the military. We thought November would be a great time to honor the men and women, in and out of uniform, driving these initiatives.

The mix of technologies featured in this issue demonstrates the variety of locations our armed forces operate near, as well as the varying biomass resources available in each region. Sue Retka Schill’s article “Fighting the Good Fight” (page 17) catches up with the Oregon National Guard as it explores the opportunity for local forest biomass resources to simultaneously move away from nonrenewable petroleum heat energy while reducing the fuel load in the state’s forest acres. In his feature “Isobutanol to the Rescue,” (page 30) staff writer Chris Hanson details the U.S. Coast Guard’s corn-derived isobutanol tests, which the USCG hopes can prove the fuel can perform in a challenging marine environment. Finally, Anna Simet’s article about the landfill gas operation at the U.S. Air Force’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska, (page 24) highlights why landfill gas is increasingly earmarked as a reliable source of baseload quality power for military bases.

The U.S. military has a long history as an incubator for innovation, so its continued push into renewable energy production and use is not surprising. The mandate now, for the biomass industry, is to ensure biomass has a proportionate seat at the table as the military’s energy future is boldly reimagined.