Global INT links to a Reuters report of a major gas find off the coasts of Mozambique and Tanzania that could make East Africa the next major exporter of liquefied natural gas to places like Asia. One of the blocs off the coast of Mozambique is estimated to hold up to 52 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to meet the gas demands of France, Germany, Britain and Italy for five years, the report notes.
The New York Times reports on recent findings for the U.S. Geological Survey that found that erosion along Hawaii’s iconic beaches could accelerate as a result of sea level rise, imperiling coastal communities. According to one geologist at the University of Hawaii, scientists are encouraging coastal communities to retreat away from the beaches in order to adapt to this changing environment. One has to wonder how easy that is in practice, especially for major installations like the U.S. Navy’s bases in Honolulu and elsewhere.
Circle of Blue links to a story in Reuters that says a new study reports that economic losses from natural disasters will likely outpace economic growth in the world’s low- and middle-income countries. This could have devastating consequences for countries the United States is seeking to develop strategic partnerships with, including Vietnam and others. What is more, one has to wonder where Myanmar fits into this picture, a country that could potentially experience significant economic growth over the next decade through foreign investment and gradual relaxation of western sanctions, but that lies in a natural disaster prone region where more than 70 percent of the workforce relies on agricultural development for their income. (Cyclone Nargis upended agricultural communities in the Irrawaddy valley back in 2008, for example.)
U.S. policymakers and military officials are giving the Arctic some more attention.
On Saturday, The Navy Times reported on the Coast Guard’s request to Congress to purchase a new heavy-icebreaker to bolster the U.S. presence in the Arctic. “Rising global temperatures and melting sea ice are opening the Arctic as a new frontier for research, travel and oil drilling — and creating more area for the Coast Guard to patrol,” the report said. “To keep up, the Coast Guard is asking for $8 million in the fiscal 2013 budget to begin procurement of a new large icebreaker.” The total cost of the icebreaker is projected around $860 million. The initial $8 million is to, as the report notes, get the procurement process started.
The U.S. Coast Guard currently lacks the icebreaking capability it needs to secure U.S. interests in the Arctic. “Neither of the U.S.’s two heavy-duty Polar-class icebreakers is in service. The Polar Star is awaiting a $57 million upgrade set to be finished in December. Its sister ship, Polar Sea, has been docked in Seattle since 2010 with engine issues,” The Navy Times said. “The medium-duty polar icebreaker Healy is designed for research and cannot cut through the thickest ice.”
Successfully implementing new energy programs at DOD installations often requires a sophisticated understanding of state regulatory bodies and coordination with public utility commissions. A recent example at the Twentynine Palms Marine base in California demonstrates why and what is at stake.
According to a recent Greenwire report, the Marine base’s natural gas cogeneration plant that produces electricity and hot water – powering at least 57 percent of the base – is running up against regulatory challenges as California prepares to put into force its 2006 landmark climate change bill that aims to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. While most state and federal greenhouse gas requirements exempt combat-related activities – especially for tactical vehicles – DOD’s installations are not fully exempt from those regulations. Acquiring additional exemptions requires DOD to reach an agreement with the individual state and local regulatory bodies enforcing those laws.
The Department of Defense is already making its case to the California Air Resources Board to reduce the burden on the Twentynine Palms base, according to Greenwire. “In comments filed last December with the California Air Resources Board (ARB), the Pentagon argued that the law may amount to an unconstitutional tax by a state on the federal government,” the report said. “Moreover, federal law could prevent DOD from participating in the trading portion of cap-and-trade scheme, the military argued. Being unable to buy allowances, DOD said, the base may be forced to produce less electricity from the plant in order to meet emission requirements.” That, of course, would hurt the base's efforts to reduce its reliance on the vulnerable civilian electric grid.
If you can today, thank a veteran for her/his service, or at very least keep America's vets in your thoughts today. Notably, the VA has also launched a new blog - VAntage Point - that is full of good reads.
Happy Veterans Day, everyone!
I'm going through my backlogged email from my week out of the office. While I was gone, my officemate, CNAS's USMC Senior Military Fellow LtCol Paul Deutsch was kind enough to pass along this year's "Commandant's Planning Guidance." Generally:
The future security environment requires a mindset geared toward increased energy efficiency and reduced consumption, thus allowing us to operate lighter and faster. We will aggressively continue our pioneering efforts in energy through our Expeditionary Energy Office, with goals of reduced energy demand in our platforms and systems, self sufficiency in our battlefield sustainment, and a reduced expeditionary foot print on the battlefield.
Under "Priority #2: We will rebalance our Corps, posture it for the future and aggressively experiment with and implement new capabilities and organizations":
Increase Energy Efficiency Director Expeditionary Energy Office (E2O) - develop a plan to decrease the Marine Corps’ dependence on fossil fuels in a deployed environment. Implementation of the plan shall begin during FY 11 and be fully funded in the POM 13 budget cycle. Concentrate on three major areas: (1) increase the use of renewable energy, (2) instilling an ethos of energy efficiency, (3) increase the efficiency of equipment. The objective is to allow Marines to travel lighter — with less — and move faster through the reduction in size and amount of equipment and the dependence on bulk supplies. (Due: 18 Feb 11)
In its description of the future security environment:
The future will not be like today. As we look ahead, we see a world of increasing instability and conflict, characterized by poverty, competition for resources, urbanization, overpopulation and extremism. Failed states or those that can not adequately govern their territory can become safe havens for terrorist, insurgent and criminal groups that threaten the U.S. and our allies....
The developing world is trending toward a more youthful demographic. Already pressurized by a lack of education and job opportunities, the marked increase of young men in underdeveloped countries will likely swell the ranks of disaffected groups, providing a more pronounced distinction between the “haves” and “have-nots.” At the same time, increasing competition for scarce natural resources — fossil fuels, food and clean water — will likely lead to tension, crisis and conflict. (emphasis all mine)
Despite Paul's Michigan alum status, it's always good to keep up on the language the leaders of each service uses in describing these challenges.
Last night, we hosted a top secret, off-the-record, “this didn’t happen” energy event with government and private sector experts who have a broad range of energy and national security expertise. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t as top secret as we’re making it out to be given the fact that we’re touting it on the blog this morning. But for the 42 of you reading this post this morning, certainly consider yourself in the know.
What follows below are some brief thoughts on the future of the military, the Department of Defense and our energy needs. We offer these points up as some food for thought as we take a step back from the event last night and go easy on the writing this morning:
We are all here because we care about energy security – finding reliably available, affordable, and sustainable supplies sufficient to meet our demand. DOD’s energy security is a more complex concept perhaps than that of the rest of the economy: our operations depend on global supply availability, adaptability for use in multiple platforms, and infrastructure resiliency. The ability of our soldiers, sailors and Marines to do their jobs is on the line. And as we were reminded last week by the news of refined fuel being smuggled from our allies in Iraq to Iran, in defiance of new U.S. sanctions, the geopolitical impacts of our current energy system often hit U.S. security and foreign policy interests particularly hard.
In recognition of the new, thought provoking CNAS publications released yesterday ahead of our Fourth Annual Conference, the Natural Security team will be analyzing our colleagues’ work this week on the blog, providing, of course, a Natural Security spin on the reports. Today’s featured report: To Serve the Nation: U.S. Special Operations Forces in an Era of Persistent Conflict, by Michele L. Malvesti.
“[Special Operations Forces] are in the midst of a resurgence, with their core capabilities aligning with the irregular and potentially catastrophic security threats of today’s geostrategic environment,” writes Michele L. Malvesti in her recent report, To Serve the Nation: U.S. Special Operations Forces in an Era of Persistent Conflict.
When it comes to Natural Security, it may not be obvious how natural resources issues and climate change engage Special Operations Forces (SOF), their interests and core capabilities. But as Malvesti points out in her report, “U.S. Special Operation Forces are ideally suited to help protect and advance U.S. security interests in an increasingly complex geostrategic environment,” including, perhaps, the complex challenges associated with climate change and natural resource issues.
Take climate change in particular. We have reported here on the blog before that SOF already play a role in responding to humanitarian crises in the wake of severe natural disasters, such as tropical storms. In fact, in a previous post here, I shared a Defense Department photo of U.S. Navy SEALs providing humanitarian relief to Filipinos in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ketsana that left nearly a half-million displaced in the Philippines last September.
We take today to remember the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces who have sacrificed their lives in service to our nation. And we thank the U.S. military men and women who, every day, continue to risk their lives to protect the United States - and their families who endure.
Photo: Flags of the U.S. Navy's Task Force Trident fly at half-mast in respect of two American and one Romanian NATO service members at Camp Mogensen at Forward Operating Base Lagman, Afghanistan on May 13, 2010. Courtesy of Chief Mass Communication Specialist Jeremy L. Wood and the U.S. Navy.
One of the things I find myself doing time and again while checking out any lengthy defense document is looking at the broad array of projects DOD branches will be, theoretically, undertaking. One of the common characteristics, however, is that due to the large volume of potential projects they often are simply listed and the really cool ones (read: Natural Security-related ones) get buried amidst projects to increase the number of portojohns at Wright-Patt AFB in Dayton, Ohio and the like (though that’s not a real project).
Check out eleven cool projects (including their costs and location in the FY 2011 NDAA), all of them are mapped out to their exact location, thanks to Google Earth!