POLICY:

DOE and DOD join forces to push clean energy research

The Energy Department and Defense Department unveiled plans yesterday to chart a new course speeding clean energy development.

DOE's deputy secretary, Daniel Poneman, announced that his agency signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pentagon geared toward increasing collaboration on clean energy research through the exchange of ideas and even personnel.

Moving to find clean energy solutions "is the right thing to do to strengthen our national security, to promote our economic prosperity, and save our climate. It's also the right thing to do for our men and women in uniform," said Poneman.

Through the agreement the agencies hope to develop "major energy technology research and demonstration programs of mutual interest," he said.

Current U.S. dependence on fossil fuels exacts a human cost, said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. "For every 24 convoys, we lose a marine, a soldier, a sailor or an airman," as fuel convoys trek along dangerous routes to reach soldiers in the battlefield.

"That is too high a price to pay for power. We have to change the way we use and produce energy," he said.

The MOU creates a framework for coordination between the two agencies on clean energy matters. Their current scattered partnerships were sharply criticized in a report rolled out yesterday by CNA, a military think tank.

Their findings, which were written by retired officers of the various services, emphasized that there is a need for more consistent and expansive collaboration in order to allow for fluid research coordination and reduce the risk of research redundancy (ClimateWire, July 27).

Electric vehicles with better batteries

Poneman explained, "The Department of Energy and the Department of Defense's shared vision of a safe, secure energy future has provided us with a strong foundation to work together on energy issues." But with this MOU, the two agencies are planning to "take a broad look" at where and how they can partner to strengthen that relationship and spur innovation.

Working to meet that mission will have far-reaching impacts beyond those agencies, he said.

"It has the potential to yield spinoff technologies that benefit the civilian community, as well," he said, pointing to potential work on vehicle electrification and development of lighter, long-lasting batteries.

The MOU lays out sweeping goals for coordination on projects ranging from water efficiency and alternative fuel research to partnering for microgrid development and better education of personnel in both agencies. Its implementation will be overseen by a committee of senior leaders in DOE and DOD, the document says.

To achieve the vision mapped out in the agreement, the agencies should also encourage swapping of personnel at the laboratory, headquarters and military operation levels, the document states.

Creating more clean energy solutions is a "classic win-win" situation, Poneman said. "We gain energy security, we strengthen the war fighter and we promote American prosperity."

Click here to read the complete MOU.

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