Most call it a carbon footprint. The U.S. Army prefers a sturdier "bootprint."
However it's termed, the Army is sizing them.
It has nearly finished deploying a real-time greenhouse gas tracking program at a dozen bases, the system's maker, Enviance Inc., announced today.
The project began last year, when the Army first put in the system at Fort Carson, Colo., and created a carbon profile of the military installation. Preliminary results suggest the base emits about 200,000 to 220,000 metric tons of carbon equivalents, about average for an installation of its size and mission, according to Tad Davis, the Army's deputy assistant secretary for environment, safety and occupational health.
This success prompted a recent expansion of the trial to 11 additional bases around the country, such as Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Fort Rucker, Ala., and Fort Hood, Texas, representing different kinds of Army activities.
The tracker receives on-line power and fuel consumption data from the bases themselves -- from vehicles, weapons, on-base generated steam and electricity and other activities -- as well as from electricity purchases. Adding in off-base activities such as employee commutes is also an option. The program then uses standardized protocols and conversion factors to arrive at gas emission numbers.
The Army is now in the process of putting carbon numbers to all of its installations, a move that would help it understand where emissions reduction measures will be most powerful.
In search of accountability
"Knowledge of the Army's carbon 'bootprint' and the specific sources of various emissions will enable the Army to develop a concerted approach to reducing emissions as well as synchronizing ongoing efforts to reduce energy consumption and expand the use of renewable sources of energy," said Davis in an e-mail.
The endeavor echoes efforts across the Pentagon.
But directing greenhouse gas measurements within such a sprawling organization has proved challenging, according to Maureen Sullivan, environmental management director for DOD's deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology, who spoke at a National Defense Industrial Association conference in May. DOD, for example, owns some 350,000 buildings and is the country's largest oil purchaser.
"We need an accountability system and ownership of data at the facility level," Sullivan said.
Emissions accounting also begs major policy questions, she added. One is whether the Pentagon will ultimately include in its numbers the fuel burned in jet fighters, tanks, generators and other tactical vehicles and equipment used on missions, which in reality account for the bulk of emissions. This policy question remains undecided, Sullivan said.
Davis noted that tactical military vehicles, helicopters and aircraft have been included in the Army's measurements as it decides among several standard measurement protocols to use.
Most of the efforts so far have focused on military installations, said Sullivan.
'Complex' but 'manageable'
That's where the Enviance system could prove useful. The California-based company's system, originally built to track traditional air, water and waste pollutants, is already used by companies such as American Electric Power, the country's biggest coal-fired utility, and Chevron, according to Lawrence Goldenhersh, president and CEO of the company.
"What we were really trying to build at Fort Carson was a replicable, scalable and standardized system," said Goldenhersh. "I think the experiment at Fort Carson and with the Army proves that even though it's complex, it is manageable."
Davis said a standardized yet flexible approach to collecting required data at specific sites will be key to the Army's success. The pilot program with Enviance, he said, will help determine what needs to be done to make emissions calculation more precise.
In addition, the Army is testing a second Enviance program to track carbon sequestration capacity at Fort Benning, Ga., using U.S. Forest Service methods. The fort's forests hold 34 million tons of carbon, they found. The ultimate goal, said Goldenhersh, is to assess how much those lands will store in the future.
Right now, the Army has received about $2 million annually since fiscal year 2005 to support a pilot program to test these automated environmental management systems, which will measure not only greenhouse gases but air, water, wastewater and waste disposal quality numbers, according to Davis.
Converting energy burned to greenhouse gas units also has the added bonus of helping to compare all types of energy savings, whether that's making a boiler more efficient or installing a solar power array.
"Measuring greenhouse gases can be very powerful, because it allows a look at the totality of what the organization is doing," said Kevin Kampschroer, acting director of a green buildings office at the U.S. General Services Administration.